Disputed Fault in Death of Cameron Hagan, Denver's First Scooter Casualty

Cameron Hagan was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
Family photo via Fox31
Cameron Hagan was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
The man who became the first person to die after riding an electric scooter in Denver has been identified as Cameron Hagan, a 26-year-old from Billings, Montana, who was visiting Colorado at the time of the August 4 collision that led to his passing five days later, on August 9. And the circumstances of the accident demonstrate how difficult it is for such vehicles to be safely incorporated into Denver's transportation mix.

According to a Denver Police Department traffic report accessed by the Billings Gazette, Hagan and a friend, Christian Johner, were riding rented Lyft scooters in the eastbound lane of West 32nd Avenue near Eliot Street when Hagan tried to cross the street.

He rode directly in front of a Honda Civic driven by an unidentified 27-year-old Denver resident, the report states. The impact threw Hagan from the scooter, and he suffered severe head injuries. He was not wearing a helmet. (Lyft provides those free to riders, but only at a single location, 1401 Zuni Street, on Wednesdays and Fridays between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Hagan and Johner were riding on a Sunday.)

The Gazette notes that the Honda driver was not charged with a crime because Hagan was found to be at fault in the accident, but Johner disputes that conclusion. "There was a lifted pickup truck that was parked, not illegally, but obstructing his view to tell if the car was there," he told the paper. "The same parked truck limited the vision of the driver. It wasn't the fault of the driver and it wasn't the fault of Cameron."

Risk has been part of the scooter story in Denver since the vehicles were introduced in the Mile High City in June 2018. This past October, we documented eleven accidents and two additional offenses involving scooters that took place during a four-month span, and such incidents have only proliferated since then. That's why the Denver City Council passed new scooter rules for a pilot program in December that called for the vehicles to travel "in any bicycle lane or in the roadway if the maximum speed limit of the roadway does not exceed thirty miles per hour."

click to enlarge West 32nd Avenue near Eliot Street, where Hagan was riding, has a posted speed limit of thirty miles per hour. - GOOGLE MAPS
West 32nd Avenue near Eliot Street, where Hagan was riding, has a posted speed limit of thirty miles per hour.
Google Maps
Because the speed limit on West 32nd Avenue in the Highland neighborhood where the crash occurred is 30 mph, Hagan and Johner were legally allowed to ride in the street. The Denver regs don't specify a scooter speed limit under such circumstances, stating only that "it is unlawful for any person to operate an EMS [Electric Mobility Scooter] on a roadway or bicycle lane at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions then existing or in excess of the posted speed limit." However, most scooters top out at around 20 mph.

On streets with no bike lanes and a speed limit higher than 30 mph, scooter riders are allowed to ride on the sidewalk at no more than 6 mph. But the question of whether this limit is regularly followed or enforced appears to have inspired Denver Public Works to propose that scooters be banned from all sidewalks, period; that proposal will be debated by Denver City Council in the coming weeks, as it considers making the pilot program permanent.

Of course, if scooters aren't allowed on the sidewalks, the result will be more of the vehicles on Denver city streets, and that can have deadly consequences, especially in the evening. Indeed, this week, Atlanta banned scooter use at night following the deaths of four riders.

The Denver Police Department tweet about the accident that killed Hagan was sent out at 8:44 p.m.

Click to read the December 2018 Denver City Council scooter regulations and the Denver Public Works-sponsored draft proposal that calls for banning scooters on sidewalks.