Someday when we are all able to be social again, the subject of scooter share will be a topic for debate, as it has been since its inception just a few years ago. The troubling safety statistics show that users’ lack of familiarity with this new form of urban mobility can lead to increased rates of injury and even death. That, coupled the fact that they have become a tripping hazard on sidewalks and a regular hurdle (literally) for pedestrians, has led to a litany of bad press, and for understandable reasons.
I and many others would counter with two points… one, scooters are new, and just like the early cars, need to be learned, refined and adapted for the urban environment. Secondly, a huge reason for most of the problems faced by scooters can ultimately be traced back to the over-prioritization of cars, leaving little space for new forms of micro-mobility. Too often, pedestrians, bikers, skateboarders and scooter riders are relegated to a small sidewalk, uncomfortably sharing their collective desire to stay safe from automobile carnage. But much of the safety and “sidewalk clutter” issues we see with scooter share programs like Lime and Bird arise from an “I don’t care” attitude that comes from using a device that isn’t yours. If we are truly supportive of scooters as a legitimate micro-mobility solution, we shouldn’t be encouraging scooter share, we should be encouraging scooter OWNERSHIP. For $400-$600 dollars, the average American can dip their feet into the world of owning one of these machines, thus taking responsibility over their own mobility device.
I personally own a UScooter Eco, giving me a top speed of 17 mph and a range of approximately 10 miles… plenty of power and just enough range to connect me to urban destinations. While not technically legal in my state yet (legislation is coming!), this powerful and portable form of micro-mobility allows me the convenience of sweat-free travel with ultimate portability. But most importantly, owning my scooter gives me the control of being able to practice and learn the nuances of my specific scooter instead of just unlocking one that I’ve never ridden before within an app. Familiarity with performance is a huge factor when we talk about the safety of the mobility modes we choose.
As since I own my scooter, I am probably not going to drop it in the middle of the sidewalk. In most cases, I can fold it up and take it with me when I reach my destination. I can take it on the bus and on the train when I travel across the state. Because I own my scooter instead of rent, I take extra steps to make sure it’s secured and not just randomly flung on a pedestrian right of way.
Bikes have been popular for more than a century, and for all but the last decade, the only option was to purchase one. While bike share is a great option, the fact that most households own at least one bicycle legitimizes bikes as an American staple, albeit usually a recreational one.
E-scooters, on the other hand, were popularized when companies like Lime and Bird began dropping thousands of them into city centers overnight. The first public connection with these machines was one of disorder and chaos. And because these machines were rented instead of purchased, the lack of responsibility and accountability just wasn’t there. Couple that with the collective familiarity with scooters as a children’s toy, and you have a vehicle with a serious image problem steeped in “thats cute” illegitimacy.
Dozens of startup e-scooter companies, charging between $300-$1,600 for the purchase of a machine of your own, litter the market waiting for the time when micro-mobility becomes a national movement. But the climb is a steep one, against decades of laughable perception blended with a few years of bad press and questionable management.
E-scooters are perhaps the most revolutionary form of modern mobility since the automobile. But their path to legitimacy must begin to prioritize ownership rather than shared programs. This will occur as local laws continue to change with the demand, and when they do, scooters will have a real chance to become the next transpiration staple in every American home.