Catch Me If You Can
Since the introduction of scooter share programs in 2017 it’s been a bumpy ride to say the least. The two-wheeled beasts have been wrecking havoc across the globe, leaving most cities in a judicial frenzy as they try to keep up with management and legislation. Some cities, like London and New York, have strict pre-existing laws that have kept scooter-share programs off their streets, but this will change soon.
Scooter companies, including Bird and Uber, spent close to half a million dollars this past year lobbying to bring their businesses to New York. State officials recently passed a bill to loosen local scooter and e-bike restrictions, acknowledging the popularity of this mobility trend. According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, 38.5 million scooter-share trips were taken in the US in 2018. This is twice as many trips taken than in 2017. The new legislation is quite broad sweeping, leaving room for municipalities to decide how to deal with specifics such as helmet requirements and geographic restrictions. For start, New York City still plans to keep scooter share programs out of Manhattan to minimize congestion. Personal electric scooters will still be allowed on the streets.
While global scooter ridership is at an all-time high, sentiments aren’t exactly on equal standing. Nashville Mayor, David Briley, tried to ban electric scooters back in June after the city’s first scooter-related death. This attempt was rejected by Nashville Metro Council 7-24. Instead, Nashville’s scooter fleet size has been cut in half and hours of operation have also been reduced alongside implementing no-ride and slow-down zones. This legislative scooter panic isn’t an isolated incident. Another scooter death occurred in Paris this summer and the response was fairly similar. Electric scooter companies have either suspended or scaled back their operations in the city. The City’s Transport Minister, Elisabeth Borne, will be looking into a new scooter usage framework, acknowledging that the scooter market is “totally anarchic, and this poses safety problems”.
A recent study by the Public Health and Transportation departments in Austin Texas revealed just how many people have injured themselves while riding scooters during the fall of 2018. Alarming highlights from this report include:
- Of the injured 190 injured riders studied, 48% fell in the age range of 18-29 years old;
- Nearly half of all scooter injuries involved head injuries;
- Only one person was wearing a helmet;
- Over 1/3 of injuries occurred on users’ first ever ride;
- Less than 10% of injuries occurred due to interactions with cars;
- Over 1/3 of users reported that excessive speed played a role in their injury.
As scooter culture shows no signs of stopping, safe and harmonious management of scooter programs is essential. E-scooter programs were rolled out rather quickly in most cities, without discussions as to where and how they will operate. Companies like Uber took a renegade, “launch first, question later” approach, exhausting city energy trying to design a proper framework. As we’re still very much in the muck of it, only time will tell how this plays out.
To help stay on top of how this mobility trend is faring in the US, SmartCitiesDive has created a virtual map that reflects the ever-changing updates on scooter news. The map is updated on a regular basis and covers juicy news on both dockless bikes and dockless scooters. Tidbits include the fact that the average lifespan of an e-scooter is only three months! The site also references LAPD’s newly formed scooter enforcement task force. The team will ensure that scooters stay off sidewalks and don’t recklessly abandon them, among other things. Whether or not this sets things straight, is too soon to say. For now, we will settle in knowing it might be a long ride!