Why Are Cities Banning Street Scooters And What Can Be Done About It?
San Francisco recently passed a law banning electric scooters from streets and sidewalks, citing a danger to pedestrians and vehicle drivers. what exactly caused this law to be passed? Are other cities following suit? what can be done to prevent street scooters from being banned? Click here to learn more.
Are you searching for a quick, convenient, affordable and environmentally friendly way to get to work in the morning?
Investors certainly seemed to think that they had found the answer to the public transportation problem in many of our largest cities.
The answer is the electric scooter. The market for the electric scooter is absolutely booming. Investors and consumers alike are flocking to street scooters as a way to make their morning commutes.
That was until the recent news that San Francisco had introduced a new law that banned the electric scooters. Now companies have to apply for a permit to be allowed to rent out scooters to users in the city.
Many people are asking questions about what the new law means for street scooters? What about other cities? And, what can we do to prevent electric scooters being banned everywhere?
Keep reading to find out more about what's going on!
The Popularity of Street Scooters
Electric scooters were introduced onto the streets of San Francisco in March 2018.
At first, everything was looking bright for the future of electric scooters. Investors and consumers alike were turning to electric scooters as the best way to travel around the city.
The money was pouring into street scooter companies. The most famous companies include LimeBike, Bird, and Spin. According to CNBC, all of which have attracted around $100 million in investment each in a short amount of time.
Even Uber is getting in on the act by purchasing the start-up Jump. Jump rents out electric scooters and bicycles for users.
It seemed that people were tired of the time commuting on public transport or by car. They wanted an alternative option and the electric scooter was it.
The idea is simple too!
You simply download an app on your smartphone, locate a scooter nearby and unlock it with the use of the app. When you're finished riding, you can leave the electric scooter anywhere.
The Great Scooter Wars
But not everyone was happy with the new-found trend of electric scooters.
If that was dramatic enough for the Wall Street Journal to run a story that declared San Francisco was being "terrorized" by adults on "tiny electric scooters".
Before you knew it, there were hashtags such as #scootersbehavingbadly and #scooterinvasion.
There's even a suggestion that the population and the government don't like the seeking forgiveness, not permission mindset. It's clear that now the Great Scooter War was up and running.
The Banning of the Scooters
On Monday 4 June 2018, there was something quiet about the streets of San Francisco. The street scooters that had become a mainstay of the city were no more.
This was due to the law passed by the San Francisco government. The scooter companies, including Bird, Lime Bike, and Spin had all been forced to put the scooters into the warehouses. They are now waiting for the government to grant a permit for them to return the scooters to the streets.
The Department of Public Works also claimed to have impounded over 500 scooters that were found either abandoned or blocking the sidewalks.
"I've seen them in the most random places from the Land's End nature trail, to mini-parking lots outside apartment buildings", the San Francisco Mayor, Mark Farrell said. He declared "That can't continue".
The companies are now in the process of applying for a 12-month pilot program. The program is overseen by the San Francisco Municipal Transporation Agency. A spokesperson said, "We're all for the spirit of innovation". The problem is "safety".
So what do the scooter companies have to do to be allowed back on the streets?
According to reports, they have to start introducing programs that provide education to scooter riders about how to use the sidewalks and the roads.
They're also being requested to offer access to lower-income users. The government also wants them to share data.
So far the companies seem to be playing ball with the city.
What's Happening Elsewhere?
San Francisco has occupied most of the attention of the world's media with regard to the scooter war.
However, it's not the only city in which electric scooters have been introduced onto the streets. Scooters have spread way beyond the Bay Area.
They have appeared in Miami, Austin, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis and many more cities in the United States.
It's not just the large cities that the potential of scooters is being realized. Nor is it only limited to the United States.
European cities including Paris, Berlin, Zurich, Frankfurt, and Barcelona have all allowed electric scooters onto the streets. According to Wired Magazine, London is going to have to wait a while longer due to legal restrictions.
Even in the capital of Russia, Moscow has introduced its own street scooters. They even had an official launch date named "Delismokat", which translated as "Sharescooter".
It seems that there's no stopping the scooter revolution!
Are the Scooters Really the Problem?
For many people who want to experience a green and easy way to travel around the city, the scooter war is bad news. It feels to many people that the government is missing the point about scooters.
One of the biggest problems facing cities today is air pollution caused by the emissions from vehicles on the road. Air pollution is rising at an alarming rate, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Furthermore, San Francisco ranks as the 5th worst city in the world for traffic congestion. In addition to the health problems caused by poor air quality, sitting in traffic is bad for our health too.
Research shows that people who regularly sit in traffic are prone to high levels of stress and mental health problems.
And yet, many people believe the government is not doing enough to ease the traffic and congestion problems plaguing the city.
According to Mercury News, what should be a 20-minute journey by car from San Jose to Mountain View can take over two hours to reach most of the time.
This raises the serious question about whether the government's crack-down on electric scooters is overlooking the real problem. Instead, governments should be spending more time concentrating on investment in infrastructure for a sustainable and clean future.
What's Really at the Heart of the Problem?
There are two main grievances that people are raising about the problem of scooters on the streets of San Francisco.
Even though one of the problems is especially applicable to San Francisco, the other one is a challenge every city that wants to introduce new kinds of transport into the city.
1. Sick of Silicon Valley
For many people living in San Francisco, the electric scooters represent yet another way that tech-savvy workers of the Silicon Valley have changed the city.
The cost of living in the city has risen significantly in recent times. Many people believe that it's the tech workers that has caused the driving up of housing costs.
Even though the problems associated with the influx of tech workers are real and complicated, the scooters are not the problem. If the electric scooters disappear, housing is not going to become any more affordable.
The problem of affordable housing and homelessness requires innovative and radical policymaking. Don't blame the scooters!
2. People are Angry
The other main complaint about the electric scooters on the streets of San Francisco applies to any modern city. People find the scooters really annoying and dangerous.
They ride the scooters on the sidewalks. They're regularly passing by pedestrians at speed and causing multiple collisions.
The ability to park the scooter wherever you want means that some people literally leave the scooter in the way of people.
This inconsiderate behavior is causing problems for people with trouble walking, the visually impaired and people in wheelchairs. Not to mention ordinary walkers who don't want to have to dodge things in the way.
And yet, there are many different kinds of obnoxious and selfish behavior in every city.
Car drivers are hardly innocent when it comes to being annoying. They speed on busy streets. They park in spots that block passers-by.
Pedestrians regularly walk into the road when a car or bike is coming.
Cyclists hop on and off the sidewalks and go straight through red lights if nobody is looking.
The Real Problem
So, if electric scooters are especially annoying or dangerous compared with any other user of the road or sidewalk, what's really the problem?
It's true that riding on the sidewalk on the scooter is illegal, according to California state law. However, it's rarely enforced.
But seriously, where else are they supposed to ride the scooters?
Yes, the sidewalk is narrow. It includes trees, pedestrians, and trash cans. But what's the alternative?
The road is much too dangerous. The bike lanes are largely ignored by cars. And cyclists ride much faster than the scooters.
It's understandable that scooters are annoying people walking on the sidewalk. But really, can you really claim to be surprised?
What Can be Done to Prevent Street Scooters from Being Banned?
Instead of seeing the street scooters as a problem in themselves, governments need to start viewing the problem as one of infrastructure.
After all, electric scooters are convenient to use. They are affordable to the consumer and the provider. They are a cleaner and greener mode of transport than almost anything but walking around the city.
It begs the question - what's not to love about electric scooters?
The San Francisco government and every other government that wants to take advantage of green and clean transport technologies need to start plowing into infrastructure.
According to NBC, over two-thirds of San Francisco residents claim to support significant investment in the city's infrastructure. They are even willing to see tax rises to pay for the extra costs.
A city prepared for electric scooters is better prepared for the wide range of mobility options that we can expect to emerge over the next few decades. Alternatives forms of transport that means we don't spend hours of our lives sitting in static in a car while destroying the planet.
Safe Spaces for Scooters
The answer to the problem of scooters in San Francisco and anywhere else is to make the city safe for them.
Most cities have already woken up to how bike lanes can transform a city's mobility system. By implementing bike lanes in the city, the number of people cycling increases because it's easier and safer.
You might think that there's no room for bike lanes everywhere. But there is, it's called curbside parking spaces.
Car drivers are allowed to take over the extra shared space. They often don't even have to pay for the privilege of parking the middle of the city and taking up more space than the sidewalk.
With this space, we could even make the sidewalks bigger. This way the pedestrians, the scooters, the cyclists and whatever comes next benefit. Road vehicles have had their day.
Regarding the problem of obstructing the sidewalk by leaving scooters anywhere. This is a problem that can probably be solved by engaging with the companies including Bird, Spin, and Lime Bike.
One suggestion would be to replicate the Chinese-owned MoBike system that exists in Manchester, England. The app rewards users who snitch on people who park badly, while penalizing users who break the rules.
Embracing the Change for Street Scooters
Street scooters are compact, cost-efficient, and a friend to the environment. As they continue to pop up in major cities, we should all get on board and embrace the change.
To scoot or not to scoot?
Either way, this form of short distance transportation can benefit cities with congestion. If you're considering purchasing, rather than ride-sharing, check out this electric scooter buyer's guide.
So, wheels and thumbs way up to the future of electric scooters.