When 32-year-old Michael Zavala jumped on an electric scooter in Deep Ellum last Labor Day, he didn't know it would be his first and last ride.
"I definitely consider myself lucky," Zavala said sitting next to his surgeon at Methodist Dallas. "It could have been worse."
Zavala rode over a manhole cover and fell off the scooter. "And I can't stand back up," Zavala explained. "I reached over, feel my leg, and things don't feel like they're supposed to."
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"I explained to Michael, he essentially created a bag of bones in his leg," said Dr. Edgar Araiza, an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Methodist Dallas. "Just the amount of destruction that he did."
Zavala had more than 20 breaks and fractures in his leg, as well as nerve damage. After several surgeries, he was in a wheelchair, then crutches. He just stopped needing to use a cane. He still has six-months of recovery ahead of him.
"I wish it was a cooler story," Zavala joked. "I wish it was like me saving somebody, but literally falling off a scooter trying to be safe is what did it."
Dr. Araiza said Methodist has seen more than 30 people with scooter related injuries in the last six months. The city of Dallas has statistics from Baylor in Dallas that show between July and January there were 88 emergency room visits, 23 hospital admissions, eight intensive care patients, and one death, all related to scooter riding.
The city of Dallas has new permit requests from three new scooter companies that could put as many as 2,200 additional scooters on Dallas streets as soon as this month.
Jared White, a transpiration manager with the city of Dallas who oversees rental bikes and scooters, said the city will use accident/injury information to spot trends and possibly set future regulations for scooters.
"It can be life changing," said Dr. Araiza, who said the speed involved makes scooter injuries worse than an average fall. "A lot of people who can't afford to take time off from work are all of a sudden out for at least three to six months until they recover from the injuries."
Zavala said his medical bills topped $150,000. Because he had insurance, not all of that was out of pocket.
"If it doesn't have 4-wheels and airbag or seat belts, I'm not getting back in it," Zavala said with a smile. "If you're using a scooter to get where you need to be, you can probably walk, you probably don't need a scooter for that. If it's too far, take an Uber because it's a lot cheaper than a medical bill."
NBC 5 reached out to scooter companies who are currently in Dallas for comment. Lime and Jump called to say they make safety a priority. Bird also called and mentioned they have safety training available in the app. You can read their full statements below.
Lime: At Lime, the safety of our riders and the community is our number one priority. That’s why every day we’re innovating on technology, infrastructure and education to set the standard for micromobility safety. Lime has recently led several safety initiatives, including:
• The launch of the Lime Gen 3 scooter with enhanced safety features, including upgraded wheels, better suspension, additional braking and improved balance.
• Global leader protecting each ride with $1 million in liability insurance.
• Investing more than $3 million in our Respect the Ride campaign to educate riders about safety and responsible riding.
• 250,000 free helmets distributed to riders across the globe.
• First of its kind Safety Brand Ambassador Program to engage communities and educate riders on safety.
• Dedicated Customer Support and Trust, Education and Safety teams available to riders 24/7.
• Convenors of an industry-wide Education and Safety Summit on micromobility.
We’re also working with local governments around the world to support infrastructure for shared scooters and bikes. It’s clear consumers want micromobility infrastructure too; 52.2% of Lime riders ranked a protected bike lane as their number one choice for riding. We believe continued government investment in protected bike lanes and paths is critical.
The rapid adoption of micromobility across the U.S. and around the globe demonstrates that the future of transportation is clean, efficient and safe. We look forward to working with the industry, medical community and regulators to create a meaningful ecosystem for this new and evolving technology.
• In Dallas and in every city where we have launched JUMP scooters, we have made free and discounted helmets available to anyone needing one.
• When launching in Dallas, we hosted a community event with the city to help promote safety and increase awareness and education on safe riding behaviors.
• We have in-app messaging on safety tips to encourage riders to practice safe behavior during each trip, including riding in bike lanes, wearing a helmet and safe parking practices.
• We’re also working with cities, local bike organizations and other advocates on the ground to explore ways to help make roads safer for all travelers.
• For more information on safety for the JUMP services, click here.
"Bird is committed to partnering with cities to ensure that the community, and its visitors, safely embrace our affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option. We strive to improve and enhance the well-being of our riders and communities through concrete action, including: requiring riders to upload a driver’s license and confirm they are 18 or older, providing an in-app tutorial on how to ride a Bird and how to park it, and posting clear safety instructions on each Bird. Additionally, Bird recently formed the Global Safety Advisory Board, which shapes policies that improve the safety of those riding Birds and other e-scooters.
We strongly encourage all riders to wear helmets. To help ensure all people have equal access to helmets, we have given away more than 65,000 free helmets.
We strongly recommend reporting any damaged scooters or incidents that Bird scooters are involved in, as we have a support team dedicated to safety that is available around the clock to address questions and reports we receive. Bird provides a number of ways for people to reach us including by email (Hello@bird.co), through our in-app messaging feature, and by phone." - a Bird spokesperson