Legally blind Austin runner trips over scooter on South Lamar sidewalk

William Greer is legally blind. He suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was 17 years old. "I see well enough to get around but I don't see well enough to read, I do not see well enough to drive," he said.  

But that's never stopped him. He works for the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities and directs the annual "Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival."  

He also loves to run. "17 marathons, 4 30-mile ‘ultra marathons’ and 2 50-mile ‘ultra marathons,’" Greer said.  "It's good for my health, it feels good, it helps me calm down and relax."  

Greer says during marathons he often runs with a guide but when he goes for his routine morning runs in Austin, he'll go routes he knows by heart.  Like down South Lamar, to the hike and bike trail and back home. "After running this for 9 or 10 years I know the route very well.  I know it by heart.  There are some places where there's like bad pavement and natural obstructions, I know where those are."

But there's a new problem for Greer: scooters.  He refers to them as a "mobile" hazard. "Something that's going to get in your way but you've got no idea where it's going to be.  And it could be anywhere in the city," he said.  

Tuesday of last week, Greer was heading back home on the South Lamar sidewalk after a morning run... "Heading that way, getting into a really good running pace," he said. 

That's when Greer encountered one of those mobile hazards.

"There was just no way of avoiding it," he said.  

He hit the ground hard. "It was intense pain, I was just in too much pain to run," Greer said.

Greer took the bus home to clean up the blood.

"I had scars on my knee, elbow and arm.  Most of them have healed fairly well by now," he said.  

His doctor checked him out.  No broken bones thankfully.  

"What bothers me is how fast they go by pedestrians without warning and the scooters are just left in random locations on the sidewalks.  Sometimes they're just left standing up in the middle of the sidewalk," Greer said.  "It's not going to stop me from running.  Is it going to change the way I run?  Yes.  I'm going to be more scared and nervous while I run."  

In May, the Austin City Council passed a long-awaited set of rules for scooter riders to abide by.

Among the new guidelines: yes you can ride scooters on sidewalks in a "reasonable and prudent" manner. But don't block pedestrian traffic or park "in any manner that would restrict the movement of persons with disabilities."

The city says those rules should go into effect in a couple of weeks.