It seems that modern-day cities have been invaded by electric scooters as some of the streets are swarming with kids scooters. However, some cities had enough of them and banned them completely or had them removed from public roads. There have been problems with their safety, user behavior and lack of permits so city officials are reluctant toward this new form of transportation.
The e-scooters ban
Companies offering the electric scooter renting service competed to be the first to reach the American citizens. Cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Milwaukee have been taken by surprise by the big number of e-scooters flooding the streets.
Because a lot of these cities’ citizens complained about them, they were declared to be illegal or the city officials advised the renting companies to remove the scooters from the city’s streets.
Indianapolis got rid of the electric scooters in July and Milwaukee did the same thing just a month later. Even in cities with a lot of traffic jams such as New York, the e-scooters were considered to be a problem. But why are people against this micro-mobility option?
The dockless system
Not having to build docks for people to return their rented electric scooter played a major part in how these situations evolved. This allowed an easy entry and exit of the market for private operators, as they could simply distribute scooters on sidewalks instead of building a permanent docking station.
Constructing a docking station implies a lot of expenses and great involvement from local authorities.
A possible conflict of interests
City officials are aware of the threat represented by the new sharing system that doesn’t require a dock for people to leave the scooters. The city has already spent money on docked systems so this might weigh on city officials’ minds.
Maybe this is one of the reasons why some cities limited the number of scooters allowed on their streets. For example, the number of cities with scooters sharing system is now around 63 but in most of them, the number of scooters barely exceeds one thousand.
The local culture
In the US, every transportation method that doesn’t involve driving a car is viewed as unusual or even odd. Riding a bike or using a scooter to get to your destination is considered a child activity and it can’t be taken seriously.
So the idea of a private company suddenly dropping hundreds of electric scooters on sidewalks without waiting several months for permits is not appealing to the average US citizen.
The parking issue
The e-scooter renting service has the advantage that you don’t need to return the scooter to a specified location. The cheap GPS chips and the omnipresent smartphones favored a dockless sharing network.
In a system without docks, you can simply leave the scooter anyplace and lock it through the app. The same thing goes when you want to find an available scooter. You open the company’s app and the GPS system will show you where the closest vehicle is.
This caused a part of the problems as people would leave the scooter on sidewalks, parking spaces, wheelchair ramps, and even doorways. This also represents a struggle for the operators since electric scooters can be parked overnight on public spaces. This is because of their lithium batteries which represent a fire hazard.
So the companies must pay local contractors known as „juicers” to solve this issue. The juicers look for the e-scooters, pick them up, charge them overnight, and return them the next morning in specified parts of the city.
Renting companies are aware of the number of e-scooters involved in accidents so they provide a safety tutorial on their app. One operator has sent more than 2,000 helmets to increase the safety level for its clients.
Furthermore, people advocating for disabled people sustained they would have a hard time trying to move around the city if the scooters were speeding on sidewalks. Also, people advocating for older people said the risk of getting injured by one of these scooters would encourage them to look for the safety of their homes instead of maintaining an active life.
Show up first, ask for permission later
Electric scooters arrived in Santa Monica, California, in September 2017 and there was no suitable legislation so the city officials were completely caught off guard. Eight weeks later, the city filed a complaint against the e-scooter’s owner for operating without having a license and for parking them on sidewalks.
The same situation happened in San Francisco, where the overnight arrival of hundreds of electric scooters from different operators created chaos. Citizens complained about people driving on sidewalks, pedestrian spaces being blocked by parked scooters, or broken and abandoned e-scooters.
To solve this problem, the firms can no longer operate without obtaining a suitable permit. Later, San Francisco refused to give permits to the biggest renting firms and accused the companies of neglecting warnings and operating in a manner that creates chaos.
However, they allowed two smaller companies to operate on the city’s streets for a two-year pilot program. During this period, the companies must operate in areas underserved by public transport and must give the city trips data.
Lack of collaboration
Maybe city officials were bothered by the operator’s attitude of not asking or waiting for permission so they wanted to demonstrate who is in charge. Local officials were rather expecting for company representatives to ask for permits in a collaborative manner instead of simply going on with their business.
For example, in St. Louis, Missouri, the e-scooters were on the city’s streets only for a day as city officials ask the company to remove them as quickly as possible. The firm submitted the required paperwork but didn’t wait for the permit so they were taught a hard lesson.
Why some people are fans of the e-scooters
Some people became fans of these scooter sharing systems because it solves the problem of the last or first mile. Everyone can easily drive an electric scooter with a top speed of 15 to 25 mph to the closest bus station or any other destination. Using a scooter, it is possible to move faster than using a car during rush hour so it also saves time.
Unlike riding a bike, you can travel several miles pretty fast to your office or to a friends meeting without breaking a sweat. A big number of the e-scooter fans used to ride a scooter while growing up which makes these micro-mobility vehicles fun and easy to ride.
Renting a scooter is not expensive
When unlocking an electric scooter, you will be charged $1 no matter how long the trip will be or where are you going. After that, you are charged as you go. For every minute of driving the e-scooter, you will pay 15 to 20 cents. If you are going to an area where this service is popular, the total cost of the trip will be smaller.
However, there are some fines that customers should be aware of. If they fail to return the scooter after 48 hours, the company will consider the scooter as stolen and the client will have to pay a $500 fee. Also, for damaging the scooter customers will pay between $25 and $500.
They can reduce pollution
The process of manufacturing a regular car releases into the atmosphere almost 7 tonnes of CO2 while for an electric car, the amount of CO2 is around 8 tonnes. When producing an electric scooter, the carbon footprint is 100 times smaller. Furthermore, when an electric scooter is used, there are no pipe fumes released inside the city.
The electric scooters can also reduce noise pollution which is sometimes an overlooked aspect of big cities despite it increases the level of stress and anxiety. Because they are almost silent when used, electric scooters could help to reduce these harmful effects.
Some cities are giving it a try
Chicago started a pilot program for a scooter sharing system in June, trying to reduce traffic jams and pollution caused by cars. Portland launched a 3-month pilot last year and a 12-month program this year that began in April.
In New York, a bill was passed in June to legalize e-scooters, but renting one in Manhattan is against the law. You must own one if you want to ride a scooter. This made some e-scooter advocates say the newly passed bill discriminates against poor people.