Are Dockless Electric Scooters Creating More Problems for Cities?
I know this is a bicycle magazine and not a motorcycle or scooter magazine, but scooters have two wheels so it’s still of interest. In a previous issue (#148), I raised some concerns about overpowered illegal e-bikes that were causing serious safety issues on public roads. Public safety – especially with regards to transportation – is not a trifling matter and we have to be aware of that fact. Govt. statistics show that over half a million people get maimed and killed every year in the USA as a result of vehicle accidents, so it is a very big problem – right up there with cancer and heart attacks. While we cannot do much about cancer, we can and must do a lot about safety on our roads. The vast majority of the accidents are due to inattention when driving and riding at excessive speeds, even on bikes and scooters. Scooters, by their very definition, are considered low- speed devices, so how can that be a problem?
The last few months metro cities in California have experienced an ever-escalating proliferation of ‘dockless’ scooters that people use to get around the city. The good part of these city additions is that one scooter means one less car out of our roads, and this is environmentally good and very beneficial to all in the city. There are several ‘dockless’ scooter companies out there and you can rent one for a small fee of $1.15/min of riding about 15 miles or so depending on your weight. In order to use these, you must have a valid drivers license, credit card and wear a helmet.
The bad part about these scooters is that because they are ‘dockless’ (meaning there is no LBS type storefront to go to you) riders will leave the scooter just about anywhere, which creates all kinds of problems for the city. To start, the folks that rent them seem to be clueless about the proper parking of these vehicles because they simply hop off and leave the scooters right where they are. That means it’s lying there on the sidewalk waiting for a hapless pedestrian to trip over. Additionally, these scooters used to reach up to 24 mph speeds. Fortunately, that has been lowered to 15 mph after the city realized they were unlawfully exceeding the Federal and State 20mph laws for electric bikes.
Then there is the inherent problem of the little 4in wheels that have no gyro effect meaning that if even one hand is taken off the handlebars the scooter becomes very unstable. It can also crash if it hits even a tiny pebble sending the rider flying to the ground. People hitting potholes have already suffered broken arms and legs on these things.
The companies of these ‘dockless’ businesses seemed to not think it all the way through because now the cities are getting really tough on scooters. They’re either being banned outright, like San Francisco did last month, as well as levying heavy fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars like Santa Monica did to the ‘Bird’ company.
There are also several other problems associated with these scooters including non-compliance on the part of the operators themselves. Most of them do not wear a helmet. The State Law is very clear per CVC 27803 & CVC 406(b). The LAPD as well as SMPD both issued hundreds of $500 tickets for non compliance. Like I discussed in the last issue, the e-bike/e-scooter, OEMs / DOCKLESS / LBS folks seriously need to get their collective acts together because if not they may face a total ban like the one we had in the 1990s with the Pocket Rockets that terrorized Los Angeles with their tiny bikes than were capable of 75mph just inches off the ground. Like I said before, it’s like the wild west out there.
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