Advocates blame truck for fatal crash as NJ city nixes scooters
ELIZABETH — A week after a 16-year-old boy was struck and killed by a rented Lime scooter, the City Council on Tuesday voted to cancel its agreement with the company.
But some say the truck was at fault for the fatal crash and are raising concerns about the decision by authorities to not charge the driver.
The death and contract vote in this city comes as Lime continues to make headway into New Jersey, sometimes pitting advocates who want to see more alternatives to driving against residents and officials who worry that the scooters can be hazardous.
Nelson Miranda Gomez was struck by a tow truck at the intersection of Elizabeth Avenue and South Spring Street around 8 p.m. Nov. 20 as the tow truck made a right turn.
Surveillance video from the intersection shows the teen riding with traffic on the street, as scooter riders are supposed to. The video shows the truck driving past the teen and then make a right turn without stopping.
There were no summons issued, as the driver had a green light and was not speeding as the truck turned from Elizabeth Avenue onto Spring Street, according to the Elizabeth Police Department. He also has not been charged with any crime and the Union County Prosecutor's Office said the matter is still in the hands of local police.
The Facebook page "Safe Streets of Newark," a local advocacy group, faulted the truck driver based on the footage.
"The truck came from behind, overtook the scooter, and put the teen in the blind spot and then proceeded to turn right into the scooter and killing the teen. The CDL driver should know to not create a dangerous condition," the Newark-based safety group said, blasting people who have blamed the victim.
"The child did not cause the tow truck driver to speed. The child did not cause the tow truck driver to not bother slowing down before turning. The child did not cause the tow truck driver to overtake the scooter. The child did not cause the tow truck driver to turn right without properly verifying that he wouldn’t be crashing into and killing a child."
Teenagers were not supposed to be riding the scooters. Lime scooters were available for rental to those 18 and older according to the user agreement each renting customer signs off on. Legal ID is required to set up a user account. Officials haven't said whose identification was used for Gomez's rental.
The City Council vote, taken with Gomez's mother and sister present, means that all 154 scooters will come off the streets immediately.
Councilman Nelson Gonzalez said that his initial vote in favor of the six-month pilot program that started on Nov. 1 was one he now regrets the most.
In a statement to ABC 7 Eyewitness News, Lime said it was "disappointed" at the council vote and hoped to work with the city on a revised program.
"We have reached out to all Elizabeth council members to listen, express our sympathies and to discuss the many ways we work to deter underage riding. This includes through education, enforcement and relationship building with community organizations and institutions," Lime spokesman Phil Jones said in a statement provided to New Jersey 101.5.
"We take this extremely seriously and are urgently investigating what happened Wednesday night (Nov. 20)," he added. "We want to stress that no one should ever unlock a scooter or provide login information for anyone under 18."
Before the meeting, Bollwage welcomed the cancelation of the Lime contract.
“In the last few days, a lot of safety issues have been raised, such as shutting them down in the evening hours and keeping them away from our schools, however Lime needs to come up with a technology that keeps young people from accessing the application – until that is developed, it will be difficult for e-scooters to continue in heavily populated areas," Bollwage said in a written statement.
Lime has a presence in more than 120 cities in the world and has been expanding in New Jersey.
Hoboken's Lime Scooter pilot program ends Nov. 20 and its future is in question. Three people were charged with DWI while operating the scooters during Hoboken's pilot program.
A test program is underway in Asbury Park with Zagster scooters until June while New Brunswick considers a program with Lime.
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