By Kendall Quirk
If you have traveled to a big city recently, you may have seen people whizzing around on scooters or even tried one yourself. New dockless electric scooters have appeared in many cities almost overnight and are now causing concern for safety and traffic regulations. Although these scooters may be fun to use, concerns have arisen regarding how many users of the scooters blatantly disregard traffic laws and put themselves at risk, resulting in at least one electric scooter-related death. Many of these large cities across the country are already struggling to regulate the rise of a new type of transportation with ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, and now face the scrutiny of the public when writing regulation for users of dockless electric scooters. Are these scooters more harm than good?
Dockless scooters have been met with immense positivity by their users. For many, the new transportation trend reflects a growing need for easier and faster transportation through busy cities for tourists and commuters. The electric scooters are small enough to avoid traffic delays and are suitable for sightseeing. They’ve also been viewed as a more fun way to get around without the exercise of a bike. Additionally, the appeal of the scooters for many is the environmentally friendly mode of individualized transportation. Dockless scooter riders are choosing the electric scooters as a new alternative to cars, saving on gas and emissions.
For many, the electric scooters are more cost effective than rideshares for shorter commutes - $1 to unlock the scooter and $0.15 per minute of riding versus a higher cost to take Uber or Lyft. Although Uber and Lyft offer comfortable rides to consumers, the price gouging at certain times of day and higher cost of a ride through traffic turns off users to a cheaper and faster option. Los Angeles recently passed legislation to restrict a maximum number of scooters in operation, but incentivized companies to operate in lower-income areas by increasing the maximum scooters in those areas.
Disregard for traffic lights and street signs, street directions, and scooters left on the sidewalk are among the complaints made by people unhappy with the presence of the scooters in their cities and neighborhoods. Despite high usage and verbal support of the scooters by visitors and tourists, many city residents want to see either the private companies issuing the scooters or the government be held accountable for these safety violations going forward.
While regulations from scooter speed limits to cost to number of scooters are discussed and voted on in local government, visitors will continue to utilize the new form of transportation without rules in place. To the public, the benefits of the scooters greatly outweigh the costs, yet governments see them as a hazard. If policymakers continue to work out the best solutions for their cities, the benefits could eventually outweigh the cost for the government and communities.