2018 Was the Year of the Scooter - City Lab


Albert Camus once likened absurdity to a man with a sword attacking a nest of a machine guns. But Camus never saw an electric scooter.

When these shared, dockless vehicles began to materialize in American cities early this year (the first scooters emerged late last year in Santa Monica), the erstwhile child’s toys seemed like a ridiculous answer to some very grown-up transportation challenges. But despite some initial dorky misgivings, e-scooters swiftly and silently inserted themselves into the American cityscape. Unlocked with smartphone apps from an array of happy-sounding four-letter startups with names like Lime, Bird, Skip, and Spin, scooters found riders among tourists, communities of color, couples, and kids. The scooter bro became a thing. Lazy people devised seating options.

By summer, hundreds of U.S. cities dared to pilot the idea, along with dozens around the world. Hiring gig-economy independent contractors to recharge the batteries overnight, some companies became financial unicorns that galloped to billion-dollar evaluations. Car-based mobility companies hitched a ride: Uber, Lyft, Google, and Ford all launched, partnered, or invested in scooter-based services. For the founder of the original Razor kickscoot, e-scootering was an urban dream rebooted and fulfilled, batteries included.

But the fad of the summer also generated a lot of pushback. Scooters blocked sidewalks and menaced pedestrians; vandals frequently targeted the vehicles and littered cities with broken machines. Others warned of safety issues: Doctors reported increased road injuries and the first fatal car-on-scooter crashes. The risks of plying pothole-riddled roads at 15 miles per hour on two tiny wheels won scooters a lot of detractors and regulatory enemies. More broadly, there was the notion that scootering was fundamentally a sideshow; the idea that these whimsical machines represented a viable means of tackling the problems of urban transportation—street congestion, climate emissions, and road deaths—seemed laughable.

Read the full article here: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/12/scooter-industry-bike-lanes-safety-regulations-cities/578686/

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