If you’ve walked outside your office building or downtown condo over the past few months, you’ve probably seen electric scooters parked on sidewalks, in bike racks, in the street, on the steps, or even in a local tree. To some, their presence in the urban landscape is but a mere inconvenience, simply ignored as they walk to their car parked a few feet away. To others, their presence generates a hatred so powerful residents find their cause worthy of protesting to their local city council, recklessly throwing the scooters into local waterways, and even starting an Instagram account with over 100,000 followers dedicated to their destruction. But cities around the globe have come to realize that although their presence can be alarming and uncomfortable to some, finding a solution to make them coexist with residents, pedestrians, and commuters will be an essential component of their urban fabric.
As we mentioned in our September 20, 2018 blog post, Have Electric Scooters Pushed Cities Too Far?, many scooter companies have taken the “dark of night” approach when arriving in new cities, often arriving without notice or much consult with local regulators. In response to this strategy, cities like Ann Arbor, Michigan and Indianapolis, Indiana instituted outright bans on the presence of ride-sharing scooters entirely. In some cases, after negotiations with these cities, Birds, Limes, and Spins were allowed back to the cities in small numbers and in highly regulated instances. In other cases, the scooters remained banned with no relief for the companies or residents in sight.
In many cities which opted to ban and continue to ban these scooters, the biggest issue has been parking. Understandably, the presence of this new form of transit, intermixed with pedestrian walking space in a seemingly overnight fashion has made some pedestrians cautious and warry while walking to their favorite restaurants. If you read the local news in cities and towns where scooters are abundant, you might think that accidents are commonplace and injuries abundant. A recent UCLA study concluded that over a one year period, scooters contributed to almost 250 injuries with only 4% of riders wearing a helmet. On the other hand, a recent CDC study concluded that only one in every 5,000 scooter rides results in injury. A similar study conducted by the City of Portland found bicycles were involved in more accidents over a four month period compared to scooters, but the study conceded that bike rides often are in greater abundance and longer distance, making the comparison a bit more difficult to verify.
In an effort to build in a ground-up change in rider behavior, many scooter companies have looked to incentivize responsible riders for proper parking and penalize irresponsible riders for poor parking and riding between trips. Bird has recently started rolling out a per-ride credit to riders who park their scooters in geofenced parking areas designated for scooters. Similarly scooter companies Lime, Bird, and Spin have allowed non-riders to report improperly parked scooters or reckless riders. In an effort to work in tandem with the scooter companies, many cities are encouraging riders to share the road with cars by incorporating protected bike lanes and resurfacing roadways to accommodate scooters and bikers alike. Similarly, some cities like Kansas City, Missouri and Santa Monica, California have repurposed on street parking spaces capable of holding one car with scooter specific parking, capable of holding up to 20 scooters each. Incorporating these parking solutions into the city scape has resulted in 46% greater compliance with parking ordinances than prior to their implementation.