Monday, September 30, 2019

What Should the City do with Scooters?

So what are we going to do about scooters?

They aren't straight-up like the  ride-hailing TNCs, but as VC-funded enterprises that are trying to scale up quickly and are premised on extracting value, disintermediation, and yes even a kind of deep data collection verging on surveillance, they have some real similarities.

Yesterday in the Sunday paper, the Register-Guard had a front-pager on problems with ride-hailing. The City of Salem has not yet reported on how our TNC regulations are working here, and it's time for a formal report. If the City can't get useful numbers and develop a meaningful analysis, then they should center the problem of reporting and transparency. They should also discuss the VMT increases and congestion that come from ride-hailing.

front page Sunday on ride-hailing safety problems
The City Manager also reports that the City is working on scooters. And the whole context of VC-funded mobility suggests it's time for the City to be more skeptical about access, and to hold a firmer line on regulations.

City Manager's update
When the ride-hailing firms came, the City, and especially the Mayor, seemed to be more interested in TNC regulation as signalling about hip culture than about real city function and mobility.

It wasn't until the second week of September
I saw the first rental bikes in the wild.
That's anecdotal for sure, but Council should ask for the rental data.
Separately, the City also hasn't really supported the rental bike program, seemingly content for it to be an ornamental fixture in downtown parks, not seriously employed on downtown streets. The Ride Salem station at Cherriots doesn't connect to other places very well, and certainly not to downtown restaurants, stores, or other destinations.

So what are we going to do with scooters? Will we come to grips with the fact that if we want rental bikes and rental scooters to be used, if we don't want them on downtown sidewalks, we will have to provide better facilities for them in the street?

Kids on Center Street at Cottage violating the law
But where should they be instead?
People aren't going to use scooters on downtown streets;
they will be on the sidewalks where we don't want them!
And if were going to talk about helmets on scooters, let's talk about requiring helmets for car users, since cars cause many more head injuries than biking or scootering.

Maybe car helmets should be mandatory?
There are more head injuries in the car!
via twitter and treehugger
If we really want rental bikes and rental scooters to be a meaningful part of the mobility mix, we have to ask harder questions about what steps will make them useful. This requires greater City support on things like downtown bike lanes.

Cities should not prop up the TNCs
Equally, since there is increasing evidence that the TNCs are hemorrhaging funds, that most of the companies do not seem to have sustainable business plans and are engaged in some kind of grift or otherwise shady and shoddy business practices, and that they increase congestion and emissions, the City should hold out for better reporting and transparency, and perhaps other concessions also.

This is the one time the City has leverage, and they should use it.

(See previous notes on scooters here, on TNC regulations here, and on rental bikes here.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm open to having my mind changed, but it seems to me that scooters should be subject to the exact same regulations as bicycles, since the danger to both riders and pedestrians seems to be about the same. So it comes down to the same problem: lack of bicycle infrastructure.

The other issue that I hear about with scooters is people parking them willy-nilly on sidewalks. If the city provides parking spaces for cars, they should probably do the same for bicycles and scooters.