The Day I Fell Off a Lime: A Scooter Fail in Austin
In my ongoing quest to show you the full spectrum of travel, I wanted to share another, more recent travel fail of mine. One that saw me miss a river cruise to see bats in favour of a visit to urgent care. The day I got a bit cocky and fell off a Lime in Austin.
In case you wondering what I was doing standing on citrus, Lime is a brand of dockless motorized scooter. You download an app and load it up with prepaid credit. When you want to take a ride, you either just find a scooter on the street or use the app to locate one. Scan the scooter with your phone and bam, it unlocks for you to ride away.
When you’re done with your ride you park it out of the way and end the ride on the app. You have to take a picture of your parking job to prove that you’ve done it correctly and not just abandoned it in the middle of the sidewalk or in front of someone’s door. It costs $1 to start and $0.15/minute afterwards.
The idea is that a scooter is perfect for distances that are too far or time consuming to walk but too close to drive. In reality, a lot of people, tourists especially, ride them because they’re a fun way to get around.
They can be problematic though. While they’re meant to be driven on roads, more often than not people in Austin were riding on the sidewalks, mixed in with pedestrians. Also, if you’re a tourist, you didn’t pack a helmet and there are none available to rent with your Lime. Mix in people who are nervous riders and those who are overly confident and you’ve got a recipe for an accident.
While in Austin this fall for TravelCon I decided that, despite this, I wanted to give the scooters a try. My hostel was a kilometer from the conference venue and rather than spending 15 or 20 minutes getting sweaty walking in the heat, spending 7 minutes on a scooter sounded perfect since there were usually a few parked outside.
My first ride was very tentative. I took it slow, getting to know how the machine handled. Yes, I rode on the wide sidewalks. No, I didn’t have a helmet. Am I a model scooter driver? Certainly not. But I tried to be hyper aware of my surroundings and gave pedestrians as wide a berth as I could. I used bike lanes when they were there. I wanted to be a considerate scooter driver.
All went smoothly and after a couple rides over a few days I was feeling pretty confident. I didn’t wobble, I didn’t swerve. My trusty green and white steed got me where I wanted to go with a little “Whee!” thrown in.
On my last full day in Austin before jetting off to Greece, I decided that I would scooter on over to the Hope Outdoor Gallery to check out the epic street art happening. I looked up the directions and it wasn’t far, maybe a 15 minute scoot. Perfect.
I set off up Congress Ave. without a care. I turned onto 10th Street and quickly learned that scooters and hills don’t mix. No problem, I’ll just push it up this little bit and then it’ll be fine. As I passed Colorado Street everything leveled out.
I was riding in the street, hugging the curb and feeling good that there was no traffic when suddenly, right outside the Governor’s mansion, I spotted the smallest of potholes right ahead of me. “Pothole! Dead ahead!” And though I veered hard to starboard, just like the Titanic, I was doomed.
The pothole wasn’t a problem for a car or a bike but it was just big enough for a Lime tire to wedge into. Which it did. As they say, it’s not the speed that’ll kill you, it’s the sudden stop. Though my scooter made a dead stop, I kept going forward.
I stumbled. Tried to run it out. As I inevitably fell, my right hand reached out to break my fall. I felt my hand hit the ground and then the rest of me landing on top of it, bending my fingers back. I quickly got up, convinced, that my hand was going to be mangled and immensely relieved that it looked perfect except for a small chunk taken out of the inside of my index finger knuckle.
And that’s when I almost passed out.
You see, my body is a drama queen. It can’t handle trauma. Swelling and blood especially. My doctor calls it a vasovagal response. In response to injury my heart rate and blood pressure drop, which leaves me feeling lightheaded and nauseous. I once fainted in a drug store after spraining my wrist and came very close when I had a cast removed after breaking my ankle as a teenager and seeing my shriveled leg. So after hauling my downed scooter out of the street, I sat with my head between my knees for a few minutes until I felt like I could walk.
I managed to stumble my way to a CVS where I picked up first aid essentials: antibiotic cream, band-aids, zinc wash, Advil, and a big bottle of water. Feeling woozy and wobbly the whole time. I sat on a bench outside texting my friends back home and contemplating what to do. My hand was definitely swelling and it hurt to grip anything, but didn’t hurt to touch it and I could wiggle all my fingers. Chances are I hadn’t broken anything.
But I was off to Greece in the next day where their health care system isn’t exactly world class. I had a ticket for a sunset river cruise to go see thousands of bats fly out from under the Congress Ave bridge and it was getting on late afternoon. I really didn’t want to spend money on taxis if I didn’t have to. But what if I’d actually frigged up something in my hand.
What to do?
With a sigh of resignation I fired up Lyft and got myself to the closest urgent care clinic with the best Google reviews (good reason to have data on your phone). A doctor saw me quickly, did an assessment, took x-rays, and confirmed that nothing was broken. All for the low, low price of $150. :\ I’d likely just sprained my fingers. I also had some road rash from my toes up to my shoulder but the doctor was surprised it wasn’t worse. To be honest, I was only going about 7mph at the time of my fall.
She was mainly concerned that I may have damaged a tendon since I couldn’t move my fingers back without assistance and referred me to a walk-in orthopedist to be on the safe side. Another Lyft ride, doctor visit, and another $150 bill later and my tendons got the ok. Thank goodness I had travel insurance. Seriously, get travel insurance kids.
Hot tip when in the USA: don’t go to a hospital unless it’s truly a life threatening emergency. Urgent care clinics will be faster and cheaper.
I did manage to get to get to the Congress Ave bridge in time to see the bats that night, though I missed my cruise. I drowned my sorrows with a big plate of BBQ (that I had to eat with my left hand) and a very tall beer. The next day I flew off to Greece with a swollen and bruised hand. FYI, packing a suitcase one-handed is no fun. Thankfully, my busted hand didn’t stop me from doing anything I’d had planned in Greece.
It’s been five months since that accident and my hand still isn’t fully back to normal. It’s still stiff with limited flexibility and it hurts to put lateral pressure on my knuckles like twisting the top off a bottle. I long to be able to crack my knuckles. But all in all, it’s pretty minor.
Would I ride a scooter again? Time will tell. For now, I’m a little soured on Limes.