If you have been following tech news in the past year, there's no need for me to tell you that e-scooters are the newest trend taking over many cities across the US. The micro-mobility industry's top players Bird and Lime are valued for billions of dollars and most predictions for their future are cautiously optimistic. However, there has also been major backlash against these companies. When is enough enough?
Yes, people are resistant to change, often irrationally so. Sometimes we feel grumpy and old and just don't want to deal with the new 'in' thing that's disrupting our habits. And sometimes people just need time to adapt before they accept the trends they were initially skeptical of. However, I want to argue that in the case of the e-scooter sharing fad, many have ample reasons to be annoyed.
Bike lanes or sidewalks?
If you have lived in city or town that has no bike lanes, you know how unpleasant (and potentially dangerous) it is to have cyclists zips past you at high speeds with little warning. Now, this is the case with e-scooter riders, which are either allowed to use or are restricted to the sidewalk. In big cities where pedestrian traffic is as busy as street traffic, this is becoming quite the problem.
Denver, for example, recently changed its regulations to kick e-scooters off the curb and onto bike lanes due to their high top speeds of around 15 mph. They are still allowed to use the sidewalk, only when other options are not available, but there the max speed allowed is 6 mph. Of course, they also have to yield to pedestrians and obey general traffic laws, but that's never guaranteed, especially considering the fact that most e-scooters offered by sharing companies do not have a speedometer. This is why I understand the frustration many people have with this trend.
Yet, the trouble doesn't stop there. Since e-scooters (or bicycles for that matter) don't have turn signals, I often encounter people who expect me to read their mind and move out of the way instantly - even when they are moving at high speeds. Not to mention the fact that e-scooters are often dumped on the sidewalk indiscriminately, which is both annoying and potentially hazardous. This is why I think there need to be better regulations in place before e-scooter sharing companies can introduce their services in cities. Pedestrians' space needs to be respected too.
Not always green
One of the major points in favor of e-scooters is that they are green. There's no arguing that they are a great alternative to cars, even electric ones, since they take up less space on the road. However, they are not suited to longer distance travel and they are apparently very prone to wear and tear.
According to The Information, both Bird and Lime's electric scooters only last around a month or two before they need to be replaced. We don't know if they recycle parts and this begs the question - how environmentally-friendly can you really be when you constantly have to manufacture new scooters? Of course, one solution is to build sturdier versions, which some like Segway are already attempting. However, I think that most sharing companies will not invest in tougher scooters unless their profit is severely affected.
Another factor to consider, although by no means the fault of the e-scooter sharing companies, is vandalism. People have thrown electric scooters off garages, set them on fire and apparently dumped them in lakes. Last year, according to the Slate, 60 of them had to be fished out of Lake Merritt in the city of Oakland. Obviously, this can't be good for the environment and it shows just how far some people are willing to go to express their dislike of the fad. I don't condone such actions by any means, but it's something e-scooter companies should address instead of hoping it goes away on its own.
Finally, if the backlash does die down, as Lime and co. are hoping, should they be allowed to expand their fleets? In my opinion, they shouldn't. I am a bit biased, since I am a pedestrian through and through - the only time I'm not walking is when I'm using public transport. However, I think there already are too many vehicles on the road and on the sidewalk. In a lot of cities, there's little space that's pedestrian only. In my view, it would be better to have more squares, gardens and wider sidewalks, instead of ever-growing roads, bike and e-scooter lanes.
What do you think? Share your thoughts on e-scooters in the comments.