Matt Trussell, 26, has lived in southwest Roanoke’s Raleigh Court neighborhood since November. He spent the previous four years working as a graphic designer at an advertising agency in Missouri. Trussell has ridden one of those newfangled e-scooters, hundreds of which might be coming to Roanoke streets soon.
To say he’s no fan of the gadgets would be an understatement. When you hear Trussell’s story, you can understand why.
The short and not-so-sweet version is, he wrecked last October on an e-scooter in Kansas City. That cost Trussell nearly seven hours in a hospital emergency room, a gash on his forehead, a badly torn ear and lots of road rash on his face and neck.
Out of pocket, Trussell added, it also cost him $3,000. (The total hospital bill was larger; he’s unsure how much his health insurance paid.)
Trussell’s also unsure exactly how he wrecked because he has no memory of that instant. All he knows is what his friends witnessed and told him later.
“I also had a concussion,” he told me.
The crash happened before 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6. It wasn’t Trussell’s first time on a battery-powered scooter. Both Lime — the company contemplating coming to Roanoke — and Bird, a competitor, deployed scooters in Kansas City last summer.
Trussell had ridden scooters about 10 times without incident before he wrecked. On the night in question, he was riding a Bird scooter, he said.
Trussell and three friends were heading to another friend’s apartment about a mile-and-a-half away. It was raining, which Trussell described as “a pretty thick downpour.” It was dark outside, too.
“Instead of taking an Uber, we decided to ride scooters,” he said. In hindsight, their choice of conveyance seems ill-conceived. “I honestly couldn’t tell you why we chose to do that,” Trussell said.
The foursome scootered on a sidewalk bordered by grass on both sides. A friend, Anthony Roderman, trailed Trussell. They had traveled about a half-mile when Trussell lost control.
“One of his wheels slipped on the [wet] concrete,” Roderman told me. “He came off the sidewalk and the front wheel hit the grass, which was wet and muddy. It dug in and he flipped over.”
Wearing no helmet, Trussell said he landed face-first and “pretty much slid my face along the sidewalk.”
Trussell’s friends dialed 911. When emergency medical technicians arrived, “they told my friends I was the third e-scooter pickup that night. [The paramedics] were laughing about it, rolling their eyes,” Trussell said.
The hospital was only a half-mile away. Trussell said he arrived there at 7:30 p.m.
He ended up with nine stitches to close a gash on his forehead above his left eye and road rash on his left cheek, chin and the left side of his neck. The cartilage in the middle of Trussell’s inner left ear was ripped.
Doctors reattached it using “a needle shaped like a fish hook,” he told me. He’s unsure how many stitches that took.
Trussell said he left the hospital about 2 a.m. Sunday. The rest of that day, Monday and Tuesday, he convalesced at home. Meanwhile, some of his ad agency colleagues suspected he was playing hooky from work.
“Most of my co-workers didn’t believe I had been in a serious accident,” Trussell said. Their skepticism subsided when he showed up at work Wednesday and they saw his scabs.
“My boss even said, ‘You did NOT need to come in today, looking like that,’ ” Trussell said.
What lessons did he learn? How can Roanokers benefit from Trussell’s misfortune? What does he want to tell people who haven’t yet taken their first e-scooter ride?
“I would say wear a helmet,” Trussell said. (E-scooters, which are rented via a smartphone app, do not typically come with helmets. And according to two studies on the subject, only a tiny proportion of riders studied wear them.)
“Don’t ride when there’s a torrential downpour,” Trussell added. “Ride them in the daylight.”
“Also, have health insurance,” Trussell said. “Luckily, I had health insurance through my [employer].”
And keep in mind that e-scooters “only go 15 mph, but that’s faster than it sounds.”
All that could be potentially valuable advice for anyone contemplating their first exciting e-scooter ride.
Just a few days after Trussell’s crash, two news reports on separate Kansas City television stations quoted an emergency-room physician talking about the increasing frequency of e-scooter crash victims showing up at St. Luke’s Hospital (Trussell was treated at a different facility).
Most of the victims that doctor cited suffered single-scooter crashes like Trussell’s, rather than collisions with other vehicles. The riders lost control when they hit a crack in the pavement or a pothole or moved from a sidewalk to the street, the doctor said in both reports.
It makes sense when you think about it. Wheels on an e-scooter are tiny compared to a bicycle’s. When spinning, larger bike wheels act like big gyroscopes. That helps riders stay upright when they hit bumps or changes in the riding surface. Because an e-scooter’s wheels are so small and lighter, the contraptions lack that advantage.
In mid-November, Trussell said, he quit his advertising job for reasons unrelated to the crash. He moved here temporarily. He’s living with his parents, Martin and Nancy Trussell. He plans to move in May to West Virginia and work as a whitewater rafting guide.
When the rafting season’s over, he said, he’ll look for another graphic arts job. He’s got his eye on Grand Rapids, Mich., where he’s lived before, he said.
Wednesday I called the newsroom of The Grand Rapids Press and learned e-scooters aren’t yet in that city. But if they are by the time Trussell gets there, he said, they probably won’t be of much use to him.
“I most likely will not ride one again,” he said.