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E-scooters aren't all fun and games

Man on standup electric scooter in downtown Minneapolis

They're convenient, eco-friendly and - we'll admit it - fun. Shared electric scooters are all the rage in major cities nationwide, including Minneapolis and Saint Paul, where they arrived over the summer. They're the latest trend in the "micro-mobility" movement that seeks to fill the gap left by mass transit.

Yet they're not all fun and games. The risks of using them range from accidents to assaults.

How they work

To find one of the dockless scooters, you must first download the app, verify your age and create an account. Once registered, you can easily locate the nearest available scooter. They're cheap to use - another feature that makes them so popular. For the cost of pocket change, you can whiz to your destination far faster than you could on foot.

How they can be hazardous

Tempted by the allure of a spontaneous joyride, far too many users are hopping onto these scooters without helmets or basic safety sensibility. Let's face it - if you're like most people, you probably haven't touched a scooter since you were in middle school. And these are motorized scooters capable of going up to 15 mph.

On the West Coast, where the leading scooter-share companies originated, emergency rooms have seen steady increases in injuries among riders. Collisions are virtually inevitable given the number (and novelty) of riders in busy downtown traffic.

But that's not the only hazard. One of the scooter companies, Bird, has given rise to an entire workforce of freelancers who vie to scoop up depleted scooters and charge them overnight. Called "bird hunters," these contractors will often go to great lengths to collect bounties by finding hard-to-locate scooters. And that might mean getting lured into a dark alley, robbed at gunpoint or even assaulted.

Play it safe

If you decide to use these scooters, make sure you take commonsense precautions. Know the rules for riding and wear a helmet. And if you decided to take on a side gig as a charger, do so safely. Don't go after that $20 missing scooter alone in a sketchy neighborhood at 3 a.m. It's just not worth it.

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