Stick to the Bicycle; Safety Risks and Legal Peril Face Alternatives
The situational controversy with Bird, Lime and Skip dock-less electric scooters continues. Several cities in SoCal including Beverly Hills, Huntington Beach, Culver City and Los Angeles have now banned the scooters from being ridden altogether for six months. It appears that this is all to do with the reckless way in which they are being operated by the riders who still ride on sidewalks at high speeds (even faster going down grade) narrowly missing, or sometimes colliding with pedestrians. This is totally unacceptable to the public and also to the hierarchy of pedestrian travel, in particular.
Pedestrians and these accident-prone, careless riders have ended up getting broken bones re-set, their faces stitched up, and their heads and necks in plaster, a rapidly increasing occurrence displayed on local TV news and across social media. Yet the CEOs leading these scooter companies shrug off the rash of safety complains, saying it’s a great way of getting around the city for the ‘first and last’ mile of a daily commute. Most definitely not. How can it be if you end up in a hospital?!
The leaders of these companies are seriously deluded into believing their own lies. First off the ‘first and last’ mile they are talking about is not happening because they are not ridden for that two-mile duration, and in practical use, not ridden much for commuting either. They are a toy, with users enthralled by the instant torque of the electric motor and their fast acceleration from a dead stop. That is the whole point for their existence for nearly all users. They are not cutting down on heavy traffic congestion when they are doing this – to blast up and down the sidewalk, scattering pedestrians in their wake, going nowhere fast. Not cool!
There is another 2-wheeled, motor-driven, pedal bike that has never been readily accepted by the public, but remains. It’s the gas-engined bike that some bike shops sell and can be made by a home mechanic with an inexpensive kit available from eBay. The trouble here is that these bikes are much faster than any e-bike as far as top speed is concerned – anything from 35mph and even up to 75mph! This is a terrible idea as the bicycle frame, wheels, tires and most important, its brakes, are simply not up to the task of regular stopping at such a high speed.
The death-trap factor only increases when mounted on beach cruisers with no hand brakes, only a coast, back-pedal brake. But the main problem here is that most people are unaware that the gas-powered bicycles are defined by law as mopeds and a moped is a quasi-vehicle. Accordingly, any lawful advantage that applies to bicycles and e-bikes is not applicable to mopeds, specifically because of their higher speed.
To comply with the law, you would need a Class M1 or M2 CDL, as well as insurance to ride a moped as per CVC 406(a). Then you need a moped/vehicle license plate as per CVC12804.9. Also, you would need to wear a DOT approved (not a bicycle) motorcycle helmet as per CVC 27802. After that, you need to meet muffler noise decibel standards, lighting, horn and the myriad other moped requirements – all detailed on the DMV website. Most important is that gas powered bikes and mopeds are not allowed on sidewalks, bike lanes, bike paths, as well as trains or buses because of the fuel they carry. If speed is your thing, might as well ride a much safer motorcycle.
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