If you’ve recently visited another city, you may have been surprised to see people zipping around the streets on e-scooters. Around the world, including American cities such as Austin, Texas; Santa Monica, Calif.; Nashville; and Atlanta, dockless scooters have become a quick and affordable way to get from point A to point B. The dockless scooters are similar to the kick-scooters kids use to dash up and down your block on summer nights, but instead of being fueled by feet, they are powered by an electric motor and capable of speeds up to 20 miles per hour.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a bill to permit e-scooters on streets across the commonwealth. The City of Philadelphia, however, has expressed objection to this bill and would seek a ban on e-scooters should the bill pass.. The disagreement of our local and state policymakers highlights just how polarizing e-scooters have become within the public discourse. The Inquirer reached out to transportation experts on both sides of the debate to get their takes on whether Philadelphia is ready for e-scooters.
The city holds scooters to different safety standards than cars
Before launching into a debate of e-scooters’ “pros and cons,” it is important to recognize the inequity in banning scooters on the grounds of safety, accessibility, fear of scooter blight, and other arguments while automotive mobility is not (and has rarely ever been) held to the same standard.
In Philadelphia, parked cars block crosswalks and access to ADA-critical ramps and warning strips; cars park in roadway medians; Ubers idle in bike lanes; drivers roll through stop signs with such casual indifference and frequency that Philadelphians sometimes call it the “Philly Slide.”
As you read about scooters, consider the word car in place of scooter and see if the standards being argued for hold true for automotive travel. See if the fears of dangerous interactions and blight seem more or less appropriate when considering a 30-lb scooter or a 4-ton vehicle. Consider our prioritization of vehicles at all costs: then consider these costs’ effect on our city’s safety, equity, health, and climate; consider how these costs impact our most vulnerable neighbors and our children.
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