Jamie McGee, Nashville Tennessean
The family of Brady Gaulke, who died Sunday at age 26 after a scooter accident, is calling for the immediate end of scooters in Nashville to prevent more scooter-related deaths.
Gaulke’s parents, Brian and Heidi Gaulke, and younger brother, Dakota Gaulke, asked Mayor David Briley and Metro Council to take action in a Change.org petition launched Thursday. Hours later, Briley said he will pursue a ban on scooters if companies cannot address safety concerns and get scooters to operate in the city responsibly in the next 30 days.
“He was killed because e-scooters are inherently unsafe in urban environments like
Nashville, on streets filled with fast moving vehicles,” the family said in the statement. “We are calling for a ban so Brady is the last victim of an epidemic that the e-scooter companies and local government both refuse to acknowledge.”
The petition received hundreds of signatures within hours of launching.
Since Gaulke’s death, the debate about scooter safety and usefulness has been reignited, with multiple council members expressing frustration with current regulation and enforcement. Four leading mayoral candidates, including Briley, agreed at a forum Wednesday that that there needs to be more regulations on scooters, and council members Freddie O’Connell and Jeremy Elrod have said it is possible that scooters will not be allowed beyond the city’s pilot project which ends in April 2020.
That potential end-date is not soon enough, said the Gaulke’s attorney Sean Martin, who practices law in Nashville.
“How many people are going to die between now and April 2020 before they act to get these things off the street?” Martin said. “The council knows that people are getting hurt. I think they have been holding their breath, probably hoping that no one got killed but not doing enough to prevent it.”
Brady was riding a scooter that crashed with a Nissan Pathfinder on May 16 around 10 p.m., and he died early Sunday morning at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Metro Nashville Police have said they believe Gaulke improperly turned left into the roadway from the sidewalk, and the Gaulke family acknowledges that local reports say their son was at fault.
“We need your help in preventing one more injury, one more death, regardless of fault,” they said in the statement.
Referencing Nashville residents’ action in saving cherry trees ahead of the NFL draft, with tens of thousands signing a petition, the family asked for similar activism regarding scooters.
“We are asking you to rally again, this time against a much graver threat: the use of inherently unsafe e-scooters in Nashville, Tennessee,” the statement said.
During the first four months of 2019, the Nashville Fire Department reported 74 scooter-related injury transports: 12 in January, 4 in February, 15 in March and 43 in April. Vanderbilt officials estimate the hospital sees one-to-two scooter-related injuries a day and a traumatic brain injury once a month. About two-to-three scooter-related injuries are seen at Saint Thomas Midtown per eight-hour shift.
Scooters entered the Nashville market in May 2018 and immediately sparked controversy. They were removed in June until Metro Council approved new regulation in August. More than 4,000 scooters and seven companies are allowed to operate in Nashville, and three scooter companies have indicated they seek to expand their fleet.
Martin said a ban is necessary because he does not anticipate enough regulatory action from Metro to improve safety. While people can choose to avoid riding scooters if they are concerned about safety, many don’t know the risk involved, he said. “People don’t appreciate the danger associated with these e-scooters,” Martin said.
The Gaulkes live in upstate New York. Brady Gaulke moved to Nashville in June 2018 with his girlfriend after graduating from the University of Buffalo with a doctorate in physical therapy. He worked in Nashville as a physical therapist at STAR Physical Therapy.
Dakota always looked up to Brady and saw him as a role model, Martin said, citing Brady’s parents. In the statement, the Gaulke family expressed gratitude to those who have shared stories in recent days about his impact in Nashville and also noted his last act of kindness as an organ donor.
His girlfriend, Brittany Ciullo, has also called for a ban on scooters after his death.
“With the sudden reappearance of Lime, Bird and other scooter companies, Brady’s death will be the first. Please help us remove these unsafe measures of travel for good,” she wrote on a GoFundPage to help his family pay for funeral and medical expenses.
Scooter companies have emphasized their commitment to public safety in emailed statements in recent days. Bird pointed to the company’s April report that states a similar injury rate between scooters and bicycles and that points to fewer scooter incidents in cities with greater bike safety.
Lime officials said it has invested $3 million in its safety campaign Respect the Ride, in which riders pledge to follow rules of the road and wear a helmet, and the company distributes free helmets. Uber said it has made free or discounted helmets available to riders. Lyft officials said the company has supported local advocacy for more protected lanes downtown and that it sends “no sidewalk riding” alert messages to riders.