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Are E-Scooters City Trash?

Are electric scooters good for anyone? They discourage exercise, are a hazard to pedestrians and are decidedly harmful to the environment.

I have been trying to keep an open mind about the invasion of the various electric scooter companies into the cities of the world. When new solutions arrive I try to fight the natural urge to push back, and prefer to assume some positive intent. Sometimes we are prone to not like new things just because they are new. However, our years of walking the earth have also provided us with the ability to make long-term discerning decisions. Initially I gave these street toys the benefit of the doubt, or perhaps was duped by their sales pitch: helping to solve the supposedly horrendous last ½ mile problem, replacing polluting cars with eco-friendly scooters, allowing us to have fun while going places…

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“Move Fast and Break Things”

But alas, a year later I have concluded that the scooters serve no viable purpose whatsoever and are a menace to pedestrians, cars, the environment and riders. The possible exception: serving as a transportation amusement for tourists at some beachside resort. Maybe.

The scooters are a shining example of what the ever-enlightened Mr. Zuckerberg has termed the “move fast and break things” ethos of the tech industry. This utterly immoral self-serving IPO-obsessed mantra says build audience and customers as fast as possible so as to goose the IPO value before the inevitable day of reckoning. The hubris of these companies dictates that socially destructive impacts are not to be considered, because there can’t be any. (Uber, Facebook, Airbnb…)

Punish Via Fines

Yes, vigilante attacks on the e-scooters may be temporarily satisfying. But a more generalized approach needs to be taken. Rather than regulate, municipalities need to punish via fines. Make the economics painfully unfavorable. Confiscate any scooter found abandoned on a public thoroughfare and fine the company 10x its lifetime economic value. End of problem.

Environmental Impact

There is no argument I can see for any positive value of having scooters in a city.

They are not eco-friendly. They still take power, and today most of that power comes from a grid powered by fossil fuels. Additionally, there are the gasoline-powered vans needed to pick them up and recharge them at night.

They are just street trash. Not even possible future trash, as it is guaranteed that this invading horde of scooters has only one future awaiting it: a landfill. That is assuming it is not thrown off a roof, into a river, off a cliff or otherwise ravaged by enraged locals.

Hazard to Pedestrians

Not only are they unsightly, but they are a hazard to people walking on the sidewalks, especially at night. I am a rather quick-footed spry fellow, and I was nearly taken out by a pair of fast-moving menaces on the sidewalk outside my loft. In what reality is it ok to ride a motorized vehicle on a sidewalk? Imagine a blind person, or a wheelchair-bound person and what that collision would result in? How does a motorized profit-making vehicle get the rights to use public sidewalks and roads? Place all the liability burden upon the companies. The company clearly makes a dangerous product, they know this, so they are liable, as in unlimitedly liable.

Replacing Exercise

Lastly, they are a physical hazard to the riders. Let’s put aside the obvious scooter vs car, scooter vs pot hole, scooter vs anything, and crushing cranial result. Think about scooter benefit vs walking. Sure, scooters may be more entertaining. If you are 15, there are a lot of entertaining bone-threatening activities to divert your hormonally addled attention. But how about walking? Is it really so onerous to walk the last ½ mile? Really? We live in the midst of a global obesity plague that is in large part the result of inactivity. So now we want another form of non-bodily-propelled movement?

Who outside of tourists, kids and the occasional kidult, will actually ride one? Imagine going to a business meeting in low heels on a scooter? Wearing a suit carrying a briefcase of legal papers to court? I think not.

Just Say No

I can imagine that some clever scooter lawyers are tempting the cities with some sort of data-for-road-rights deal, or a pay-by-the-mile compensation to the cities. Just say no. Kill them off now via removing their economic viability and saddling them with limitless liability. Done. End of IPO exit route.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Hey David, Love your work and see that you are referring to the rental scourge however, I must say that I love my scooter for covering the last 500+m. I’m over 50, I exercise, etc. but I do so enjoy tech and anything with wheels… All the best, C

      • Hey David, I’m an Aussie… 500 metres 😉 After the significant mistreatment of rental bikes (non-electric) under this model, we haven’t seen rental electric scooters in Melbourne or Sydney as yet. C

  2. I’m a fan of the scooters. I’ve only tried them out for fun, and I’ll be one that walks that last 1/2 mile for the exercise in my pursuit of 10,000 steps per day. Heck, I’ll walk the 2.5 miles to or from work on a nice day. But riders seem to like them. They make it possible to get somewhere faster, do more things, see more things, and enjoy the outdoors as opposed to managing other more costly and less convenient vehicle or public transportation options. I agree that many riders disobey the rules – either the scooter company’s rules or our city’s ordinances regarding them – and that can be frustrating, but that’s the rider’s fault and not the company’s any more than it would be a car rental company’s fault if I broke the law or was rude driving a rental car. So I’m still a fan overall and would rather see those going to and fro than a lot more cars.

    • Hey Jeff,I’m with you that more scooters are definately
      preferable to more cars. There are some big differences though. All cars
      pay a registration fee for the right to use public roads. Rental cars
      pay these fees, and local use fees. Cars are required to have insurance.
      Cars also don’t drive on sidewalks, well, at least not often. There are
      parking regulations for how one can leave a car. There are regulations
      about how one can drive a car. The scooters, well not so much. Maybe
      this all gets figured out in the future.

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David Stewart
David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

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