Scooters

Three weeks ago, the consultancy 6t released a study about dockless e-scooters in France. The study is available only in French but there is an executive summary in English. It has convenient demographic profiles of e-scooter riders in Paris, Lyon, and Marseille, and generated some media controversy over the fact that scooters are barely displacing car trips – rather, they’re replacing trips by foot or public transit. This is on top of calls for greater regulations of the mode in multiple countries, not just by NIMBYs but also by serious urbanists like Streestblog’s Angie Schmitt; I was alerted to the study in the first place by Jonathan Rosin, who proposes regulations requiring geofencing to prevent riding on the sidewalk.

And yet, there’s something interesting about scooters and transit in the study, which suggests to me scooters have a positive role to play in a transit city. On p. 80, figure 48 shows combination of scooters with other modes. Out of about 4,000 respondents, 886 say they used scooters in combination with another mode – and of the latter, 66% used it in combination with public transportation.

How worried should we be about rider behavior?

Not really. There is an American discourse concerning dockless transportation that complains about clutter, scooter-pedestrian conflict, and nuisance scooters or bikes left on the sidewalk. The study itself discusses the regulations of e-scooters in various countries. In Britain and Italy e-scooters are legally classified as motor vehicles, which is effectively a ban, and in the US there are onerous regulations such as a requirement for a driver’s license and a minimum age of 18, such as in California. In France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, and Denmark, regulations are laxer, e.g. in Germany the minimum age is 14 and the e-scooter is treated as a bike.

The sort of clutter that Americans complain about was not evident to me in Paris, one of the largest markets in the world for e-scooters as well as bike share (it still has the largest bike share program in the world outside China). As far as I could tell, scooters were mostly used around Nation for recreational trips – at the very least, people did not preferentially leave them right at the Metro and RER station, and I did see a fair number of dockless vehicles (I forget if just bikes or also scooters) at the Bois de Boulogne. Central Paris had a higher density of scooters, but they too did not seem to clutter on the street, and I don’t remember ever having had to dodge a scooter even though people did ride on the sidewalk.

At least at eye level, the lax regulations France does have – the minimum age is 8, cities may choose to permit or prohibit riding on the sidewalk, riding on all streets with speed limit up to 50 km/h is required – appear sufficient. The American, British, and Italian approaches are too draconian and only serve to discourage this mode of transportation.

Gaps in the transit system

Pp. 111-4 have tables describing mode switching. Few of the scooter users would have traveled by car if the scooters hadn’t been available, only 8% including taxis and TNCs (“VTC” in French). In contrast, 46% would have walked and 32% would have taken public transportation.

But is this even a problem? The same tables have the average transit-to-scooter switcher gaining 5 minutes, taking 19 minutes instead of 24. On short trips, scooters are useful for filling little gaps in the regional public transport network. Maybe the origin and destination are not well-connected by Metro, as is for example the case for Nation and much of the Left Bank, so that a transit trip would require transfers. On a poll suggesting non-mutually-exclusive options for why people choose scooters over transit, 68% say it’s nicer, but 44% say it’s faster and 39% say it’s direct. From the perspective of the transit agencies, a mode that makes certain crosstown trips easier without changing trains at Chatelet is a net positive, as it decongests the station as well as other complex transfer points.

According to Owen Gutfreund’s book 20th Century Sprawl, in the 1900s and 1910s the American railroads were supportive of road expansion. To the railroads, cars were a natural complement to trains, extending their range beyond that of a horse or bicycle. Of course, soon the cars turned into competitors, once roads improved to the point of allowing longer-distance travel. But scooters, limited to 25 km/h, do not have that capability. The mode of transportation most comparable to the e-scooter, the bicycle, coexists with a solid regional and intercity rail network in the Netherlands.

Ban cars

The ultimate goal of the green movement in general and of public transit activism in particular should be to ban cars, or else get as close as possible to banning them. Modes of transportation that are not cars that provide alternative functionality to cars are almost always a good idea in this scheme.

Trains are an excellent alternative for long trips, that is out-of-neighborhood trips for such purposes as work, school, citywide social events, and intercity travel. Shorter trips are dominated by walking in transit cities. However, there are two important caveats for the idea of doing short trips on foot. First, there is a genuine in-between region in the 2-4 km range. And second, people with disabilities may not be able to walk long distances, which lowers the upper limit from the 1-2 km range to a much shorter point, perhaps 500 meters – and if their disabilities do not require the use of a wheelchair, then they may well find scooters an acceptable alternative.

In Paris itself, which dominates the survey, scooters are not replacing cars, for a simple reason: few trips in Paris are done by car in the first place. But a robust scooter network can expand out of the city into suburbs with higher present-day car usage, and those suburbs can then become ever more walkable thanks to the displacement of cars by greener modes of travel.

45 comments

  1. michaelrjames

    scooters are barely displacing car trips – rather, they’re replacing trips by foot or public transit.

    Ahem, did I not explicitly say this recently on your blog?

    In contrast, 46% would have walked and 32% would have taken public transportation.
    But is this even a problem?

    From a public health p.o.v. yes. I know most will think otherwise but too many (young) already don’t do enough exercise and I have clearly seen how this has displaced short (500-1000m) walks in my neighbourhood, which was the pilot program for Lime scooters in Australia. Increasingly exercise is seen as something you do in a gym but that way lies trouble. As I keep pointing out, fitness was commercialised/industrialised back in the late 70s by Jane Fonda et al., but has our fitness or obesity levels, or diabetes incidence improved or declined? Advocates always blather on about “time saved” but seriously it is trivial. I suppose you can make the case for Nation to Latin Quarter which is 3km but even then, I wonder how much time is really saved (ten minutes? ie. 20 minutes versus 30 minutes walk or Metro?). Especially in inner-city (CBD) areas, walking is actually quite interesting (obviously especially in Paris) while I reckon e-scootering has to be a bit stressful (from my Paris bike-riding days) and a rider is much less taking in the urban situation than looking out for obstacles, living and inanimate, and traffic etc.
    I am taken back to the UK, and my old territory of Brighton-Hove which, as a retirement centre, is apparently the mobility-scooter capital of Europe, possibly the world. And the thing one can observe every day if you keep your eyes peeled: unfit people zooming around on them but then dismounting and walking (waddling) into shops etc. In other words they have become a displacement to walking and this means their fitness, that was poor to begin with and why they begged their doctor for authorisation for a mob-scooter (funded on national healthcare), will steadily become worse … due to the reliance on the mobility-scooter.

    Are e-scooters becoming the mobility-scooters of gen-Y-Z etc?
    ……………..
    FYI, the Lime pilot program here was very successful and they are now rolling it out across Australia. They may have tested it here because of perhaps a more confined inner-city area and because riding bikes (and e-scooters) on sidewalks is legal. Last month saw the first death; although he suffered head injuries he was wearing a helmet, and some reports say he died of heart failure. Helmets are mandatory but Lime bikes often don’t have them. Also: “”Two hospitals looked at their data over a two-month period in Brissie and we saw about 80 injuries and out of those 80 injuries, 12 cases needed surgery,” he said. Mr Hucker said people were wearing helmets in the overwhelming majority of injury cases.”

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-09/man-dies-in-hospital-critical-lime-scooter-crash-brisbane/11098060
    Man dies in hospital after crashing off Lime scooter in Brisbane , 09 May 2019.

    • adirondacker12800

      …..Brighton-Hove which, as a retirement centre, is apparently the mobility-scooter capital of Europe, possibly the world. ….

      Here in the States they park in the handicapped space, go a few steps, get in the store’s scooter to cruise through the aisles on a scooter. The herd doesn’t get culled as harshly as it was in the past. Antibiotics, insulin, a wide variety of high blood pressure medications, dialysis machines, coronary artery stents and more, keeps them alive longer. And it’s not always that the started out of the spiral of unfitness and now can’t walk far. It can be because they worked hard and their joints are giving out. But not bad enough yet that they are candidates for knee or hip replacement.

      • michaelrjames

        Certainly, which is why one cannot be against sensible use of mobility-scooters but one can see that there is a fair amount of abuse of them too. The people with work-related disability are literally dying out of our advanced societies. There just aren’t many of them around; even all those coal-miners (not so many in fact) in the US don’t work like their fathers did (respirators to prevent black lung and machines to do anything strenuous). The biggest category of “abusers” are the obese, and yes, I cringe whenever the PC brigade bang on about “fat-shaming” because it actually works (or used to; while the opposite, esp. in US, UK and Australia, has normalised grotesque obesity). Those medications can relieve many symptoms of these chronic conditions but people don’t feel much better–and some feel worse even if it is arguably prolonging their lives–whereas tackling the problem at its cause actually makes people feel a lot better. We are all hypocrites on this subject but give me quality of life rather than quantity (the paradox is that if you have quality you are more likely to have longer life, and certainly longer more enjoyable or productive life).

        Incidentally, mobility scooters are getting out of control. Here they got the police to start fining those who barge around amongst pedestrians causing collision and injury (to others) and IMO this change should include fewer people authorised to use them.

        Oh, and it has taken the medical profession most of my life to realise that the remedy to those aching joints etc is not “rest” (or mob-scooter) but regular use, on the obvious principle of “use it or lose it”. And that comes back to my observation about e-scooters: they are removing one of the few regular and gentle bits of “exercise” all of us can do every day of our lives.

        • adirondacker12800

          It’s very difficult to see joint disease or heart disease or lung disease. They would have been culled from the herd in the past. Or didn’t leave the house.

          • michaelrjames

            adirondacker12800, 2019/06/29 – 12:25
            It’s very difficult to see joint disease or heart disease or lung disease. They would have been culled from the herd in the past.

            No. They mostly escape elimination by natural selection because they are late-onset conditions (decades after breeding age, indeed beyond natural lifespans not so far back in time), though of course they are also conditional: pre-modern humans would have accumulated injuries but not those types of chronic disease because our lifestyle was protective. Use it or lose it. As I said, the way to improve joint disease is not to cease using the joint but to keep using it (gently, not in football tackles or marathons or playing against Nadal etc–or being Nadal!).
            OTOH, actual genetic conditions, especially dominant ones, are in extremely low population incidence because they have been eliminated by natural selection, because most of those are early-onset conditions. Even terrible genetic diseases like Huntington’s which has onset at middle-age persist at quite high population frequencies because they escape selection pressures; though HD also has its own trick of actively increasing its incidence by imbuing its male sufferers with a higher libido when young. Think of Woody and the trail of children he left in his peripatetic travels. It’s genetically dominant so alas many of those children would have got the condition (but not Arlo).

            For completeness–remember, I’m a geneticist–I’m not sure what you mean by “lung disease” but if you mean CF (Cystic Fibrosis) which is one of the most common genetic diseases, it is recessive not dominant, so that means natural selection can never eliminate it. But also (though I am out of date on this) it is suspected that there is some advantage to being a heterozygote (one of two genes carrying the mutation), probably increased resistance to some common disease, say TB. This is by analogy to Sickle Cell disease which is very frequent in tropical Africa because heterozygotes gain measurable protection against malaria.

          • adirondacker12800

            Without antibiotics the ones who were young and vital enough to survive the killer smog wouldn’t have survived the first or second bout of bacterial upper respiratory infections people who need mobility assistance are prone to. If they are old enough to have survived killer smogs they are old enough to have survived polio epidemics too. A few of them, not many but a few, use a mobility scooter because they have post polio syndrome. I survived the chickenpox epidemic that swept my community. I knew someone who didn’t. He never went to the mass immunization events, for polio, that I did. He was dead. He never got old enough to take the high blood pressure medications I take. That came on the market after he was dead. Or take the antibiotics I’ve taken, that came on the market, after he was dead. I discuss with my doctor, since I survived having chicken pox, whether I want to take Zostavax which is available or hope the shortages of Shingrix resolve soon. I had chickenpox because there was no vaccine back then. And survived. I knew someone who didn’t. I can have that discussion because my high blood pressure is well controlled and I’ve taken antibiotics that worked. If I had died of complications of high blood pressure or an infection at 52 my risk of getting shingles at 75 is very low. Or needing my knee replaced at 69. Or going on dialysis at 66.

            Modern medicine means they don’t die early and live long enough to have diseases of old age.

      • michaelrjames

        adirondacker12800, 2019/06/30 – 15:27

        Seriously, I’m not sure what you are talking about. None of it is relevant to today’s over-reliance upon mobility-scooter (or motorised wheelchairs) by those who would do better using their own limbs.

        As it happens I too had chickenpox as a kid–almost everyone did back in the 50s. Like most I survived and in fact like most, without any long-term sequelae. Though several decades later I had an attack of shingles which is one manifestation of the resurgence of Varicella zoster virus which lays latent in all people who had chicken pox as a child. It only affected my face and head (worst headaches in my life) and cleared up after about 4 days; it was the only time I had to seek a doctor while living in Paris. I think it happened due to a severe bout of hayfever which the annual plane tree blossoming brought on (not so noticeable in central Paris but I was working in the Villejuif hospital with extensive grounds and lots of big mature trees). I was worried that this was going to become a lifelong burden as it does for some people. Apparently it can get so bad for some old people that it drives them to suicide. Luckily I have never had it again.

        I also had Scarlett fever and Glandular fever, simultaneously and caused by another herpes virus (Epstein Barr Virus, which entirely coincidentally I came to study–fyi, I’ll list a paper of mine on the subject below). This simultaneous hit when I was only 2 and did almost kill me and I was a sickly kid for several years. However, whatever doesn’t kill you …. and since about age 8 I have hardly needed to see a doctor. That’s generally the case for those who got all those childhood diseases. Even polio–if you survive. At my primary school I remember there was only one (obvious) polio survivor who had permanently weakened legs and was on crutches (for life) but he was an immigrant (I don’t know but suspect he contracted in his home country); by then polio was getting very rare. However in the immediately preceding generation some, like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, can suffer postpolio disease later in life.

        Yes, antibiotics have saved countless lives over the last 75 years and ditto vaccines, though do you know that 98% of every human on earth carries for life the latent EBV in some of their white blood cells? The most successful human parasite known. It’s why it was of interest because it is essentially a stable extrachromosomal element in humans (see the paper).
        It mostly does us no harm, but in certain populations it happens to be one of the biggest causes of cancer, such as Burkitt’s Lymphoma in the malarial belt of Africa or Nasopharyngeal carcinoma mostly in southern China (related to their diet). In fact it may have been a resurgence of EBV and subsequent transient weakening of my immune system that allowed VZV to reappear to give me shingles all those years ago. There’s still no fully effective vaccine–which is being sought for those cancers it causes, not generally because the vast majority of children are not even aware of contracting the virus.

        Anyway none of this changes my view that too many people are resorting to mobility scooters. Only if you are severely disabled does it make sense. For most of the personal things you discuss you would still be best advised to do daily gentle exercise, and it would increase both your lifespan and life quality. (But I suppose I must qualify that, so you need to listen to your doctor.)
        …………………….
        Wade-Martins, R., White, R. E., Kimura, H., Cook, P., and James, M. R. (2000). Stable correction of a genetic deficiency in human cells by a 115 kb episomal genomic transgene. Nat. Biotechnol. 18, 1311-1314.

        White, R. E., Wade-Martins, R., Hart, S. L., Frampton, J., Huey, B., Desai-Mehta, A., Cerosaletti, K. M., Concannon, P., and James, M. R. (2003). Functional delivery of large genomic DNA to human cells with a peptide-lipid vector. J. Gene Med., 5:883-892.

        Here, I just googled and found this old review that is fully accessible online (White & Wade-Martins were two of my brightest PhD students in Oxford); who knew I would find a reason to cite these on a urbanist blog, ta AD!

        https://www.cell.com/molecular-therapy-family/molecular-therapy/fulltext/S1525-0016(02)90557-5
        Infectious Delivery of 120-Kilobase Genomic DNA by an Epstein–Barr Virus Amplicon Vector
        Molecular Therapy, VOLUME 5, ISSUE 4, P427-435, APRIL 01, 2002.
        Robert E. White, Richard Wade-Martins, Michael R. James.
        ……………………..

        • adirondacker12800

          You are being deliberately obtuse. Dead people don’t have mobility problems. We cure or manage things that would have killed people off in the past, before they got old enough for their medical problem or problems to cause mobility issues.

          • michaelrjames

            No, not deliberately. I may well be guilty of being insensitive–and I still don’t quite get your point or why it seems to steam you up, which probably proves it. I will admit to have the irritating insensitivity of the healthy able-bodied. My mother lived to 95 (and her sister to 99y, her father to 98 and one of his aunts to 103y) and, as long as I can escape all those trying to murder me, I expect to fare similarly. But I know that if I end up unable to walk, whether on a mobility scooter or something else motorised, that won’t be true.

            It is true, or has been historically, for those who survive into true old age that they are in remarkably good shape. Perhaps you are saying it is no longer true and that drugs and other medical interventions keep the disabled etc alive longer and they are the ones needing mobility-scooters. This isn’t quite correct in the sense that much of this “disability” is self-inflicted by obesity and related lifestyle diseases of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. The biggest cause of surgical limb amputation is not car accidents or even the Afghan and other US wars, it is diabetes, usually with obesity comorbidity.

  2. Herbert

    There is an obsession among “a certain political party” in Germany with Seilbahnen as regular public transit. In Berlin there is a debate to integrate the IGA Seilbahn into BVG ticketing (take U5 to Gärten der Welt to give it a test ride) what do you think of the issue in general and in high income countries in particular?

    • Alon Levy

      I will try. Americans are developing an obsession with gondola lifts for the novelty factor as well; they’re useful in mountainous areas where there’s no street grid to speak of and the gondola can substitute for hairpin turns, like in Medellín, but as intermediate-capacity normal urban transit in a real street grid it’s pretty overrated.

      • Herbert

        In the Nuremberg area there was a proposal to replace the never built U2 southern extension to Stein with a Seilbahn. Which would of course turn current two seat trips (subway-bus) into two seat (subway-Seilbahn) or three seat (subway-Seilbahn-bus) trip. And why exactly this would be of any benefit for anybody I don’t know

  3. John Mellor

    The adult electric scooter is powered partly by a battery motor and is therefore classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV) by the Department for Transport (DfT), making it illegal to use on UK roads and pavements. However, it is legal to use them on private land and property.

    • michaelrjames

      I don’t understand. Wouldn’t that same regulation make electric-assist bicycles illegal to use on UK roads?
      What about mobility scooters or electric wheelchairs? I don’t think it can be quite as prescriptive as you suggest. Surely it is related to power and speed?

      In Brisbane the state wanted to legally restrict the Lime e-scooter speed to half its nominal 25km/h top speed, ie. to 12.5km/h. But some people objected and they caved and allowed the full speed, which was pretty reckless as it was certain that most users would use them on pavements–which they do. I don’t know how many of the 80 injuries (up to May) were related to speed on pavements. In general I would observe riders appear in less control of these things than regular bicycles.

  4. Bruce Nourish

    For whatever it’s worth, this jives with my personal experience. I’ve used Lime scooters for purposeful travel in two places, Tel Aviv and Paris, and mostly I use them opportunistically when I’d otherwise walk or take bikeshare. They’re particularly awesome when it’s hot (like Paris, where I’m sweltering right now) — rather than exerting yourself, you get to stand in a nice breeze.

    While scooters have seldom substituted for a car trip, as someone who prefers not to use cars in the city, they have made my life better, and I hope urbanists will come to embrace them, or at least approach the problems that come with them constructively.

    I think dockless e-scooters are going to drive dockless bikeshare mostly extinct. They’re much easier to park, and there’s no need to sit on a hot/wet/gross saddle. The only place they don’t really work as well as e-bike share is on hills.

    • Herbert

      Most people in developed countries have pre existing knowledge of riding a bike. The Dane isn’t true for scooters…

  5. Tonami

    In San Francisco, the numbers of people zipping by on eScooters has declined since LIme and Bird were booted out. On the other hand, they have double down on the Eastbay with Oakland getting the bulk of it. Occasionally the LImes and Birds do find their way into SF as riders dump them after carry them across the bay on BART.

    In terms of utility, I see a lot of people using them for really short jaunts and the benefit is there, but I haven’t seen the need to ever use one. Despite their ubiquity, I’m still yet to download any of the apps. I just walk by them parked on the sidewalk on my daily commute. It would be interesting to compare miles traveled and trips taken between the Gobikes bike share here in the Bay Area and the scooters.

  6. adirondacker12800

    and in the US there are onerous regulations such as a requirement for a driver’s license and a minimum age of 18, such as in California.

    16. And it’s probably illegal to use any of them, except maybe the thing you stand on, on a sidewalk. Which means you have to prove you know things like red means stop, green means go.

    https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/motorcycles/motorcycles

    If you are going to hurtling large hunks of metal around it’s probably good to check that you have some idea of what is going on. And be old enough to sue.

    … Critical Mass in NY? The cops tried to give them tickets for obstructing traffic. They then pointed out that they are traffic..

    As it says in the regulations. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bicyclerules_english.pdf

    Those things you stand on don’t transmit human power through a belt, chain or gear. They aren’t bicycles.

    https://ny.curbed.com/2019/4/25/18514890/nyc-micromobility-ebike-escooter-laws-jessica-ramos

    I don’t know why they are in a swizzle over delivery people, bicycle delivery people have been around since bicycles. Put pedals on the electric, that can transmit human power through a belt, chain or gear and Voila! it is a bicycle.

    But a robust scooter network can expand out of the city into suburbs with higher present-day car usage, and those suburbs can then become ever more walkable thanks to the displacement of cars by greener modes of travel.

    No it can’t. Not in places where everybody goes some place else weekday mornings and comes back late in the day. Then are days with lousy weather and in the Northeast and Midwest, snow. Their own bicycles or electric bicycles, maybe. That can negotiate the smaller potholes. And the snow. The fantasy of autonomous self driving cars replacing private automobiles doesn’t work in the suburbs. Unless you spread the work day out to 16 hours or so. So the autonomous cars can ferry one person to work, drive back out and pick up a second person etc. They might replace second or third cars in some households but where someone drives to a 9 to 5ish job, they will have their own.

  7. MiraMatt

    A quick note, in response to “and in the US there are onerous regulations such as a requirement for a driver’s license and a minimum age of 18, such as in California”:

    You can get a driver’s license, at 16 in most of the US, including California, and thereby qualify to ride an electric scooter here.

    When I looked into how common that is, the percentage of young drivers licensed is a lot lower than I expected from my personal experience in a lower-to-middle income car-oriented suburb in the 90s. I guess the current requirements, such as 6 hours of professional behind-the-wheel lessons and significant restrictions in when and who under-18-year-olds can drive, have dissuaded a lot of people from getting licensed then.

    Lower-powered e-bikes (those with a top speed up to 20MPH) have no minimum age or license restriction in California.

  8. adirondacker12800

    According to Owen Gutfreund’s book 20th Century Sprawl, in the 1900s and 1910s the American railroads were supportive of road expansion. To the railroads, cars were a natural complement to trains, extending their range beyond that of a horse or bicycle.

    In 1910 private automobiles were still a rich man’s plaything. That railroads or their associated companies could afford. Paved roads make it easier for the Western Union boy on his bicycle to get places, what eventually became REA to get there and the freight on the team tracks moves in and out faster. That needed skilled operators capable of cranking an engine manually. Electric starters don’t appear until later. The Model T doesn’t get them until 1920.

    Everybody was living happy contented lives without automobiles. East of the Appalachians, without trains before they happened. Wikipedia says that by 1910 Ford had produced 12,000! Model Ts. And the production of the top 8 manufacturers was just under 130,000. Production had exploded to 170,000 Model Ts per year by the time they institute the five dollar day in 1914 and 202,000 in 1915. The cars weren’t cheap enough for them to afford until the 20s. And it got put away for the winter.

    • Alon Levy

      In the 1910s cars were increasingly used as a work tool – IIRC the railroads were especially interested in extending their freight range from railhead to farms.

      • adirondacker12800

        The freight was getting to and from the railroad or canal before there were cars and trucks. It’s how they made their money. And how the farmers were able to order stuff from the mail order catalogs. Because they and their horse were able to drag stuff to the canal or railroad. By 1910 it was becoming obvious that running these internal combustion powered wagons on the waste product of the kerosene industry was cheaper than horses. And their accountants were probably coming up with being cheaper than running steam trains all over the place. But stuff was getting to and from the canals and railroads before there were cars and trucks. And before there were railroads, into the cities, because otherwise everybody leaves to go find food.

  9. Reedman Bassoon

    Before leaving office, governor Jerry Brown of California signed a collection of updates to the vehicle code to make the code more rational in a world with scooters. Beginning January 1, 2019:
    — only riders under 18 have to wear a helmet. This is moot since scooter companies won’t rent to people under 18.
    — previously, scooters were illegal on any road with a speed limit above 25 mph. That limit was raised to 35 mph.
    — scooters are now allowed on roads with a speed limit above 35 mph if there is a separate bike lane.
    — because they are motorized devices, scooters are not allowed on the sidewalks.
    — the maximum allowed speed of scooters is 15 mph.
    — a drivers license is required (because you are operating a motor vehicle in the street).

      • adirondacker12800

        Ain’t English grand? Scooter is ambiguous. Are you talking about a classic Vespa? The electric chairs disabled people use? The things like skateboards with handlebars? An electrified bicycle? I don’t think you are talking about the three wheeled things that look vaguely like someone took parts from a Morris Mini, VW Beetle and dune buggy then did something strange but I don’t know. Or meter maid golf carts. There are suburbs that have golf cart road systems hidden away behind the bushes.

        • michaelrjames

          There are suburbs that have golf cart road systems hidden away behind the bushes.

          There are suburbs where e-golfcarts are the only kind of personal motorised transport (other than delivery vehicles): Discovery Bay (aka “Disco Bay”) on Lantau island, Hong Kong, just next bay over from Disneyland, but predating it by 3 decades. You used to have to take a ferry from Central to access it, though today there are buses and even the Disney train via the Airport/Tung Chung metro line. The place is filled with masters-of-the-universe types, ie. financial industry types, and those old enough to have (non-working) wives and kids. It was interesting but also a little weird in that it was very 70s in design and overwhelmingly one class (I suppose part of its point: no Hong Kongers, majority transient euro-types) and more baby-strollers than any other wheeled item. Little bit Stepford Wives territory.
          Also, there was some kind of quota on them so you had to join a waiting list to qualify to buy one!

          • michaelrjames

            I wrote:

            Little bit Stepford Wives territory.
            Also, there was some kind of quota on them so you had to join a waiting list to qualify to buy one!

            The golfcarts, not the Stepford Wife! AFAIK
            Sorry, adirondacker, to get you all excited … 🙂

  10. Mikel

    It would be interesting to consider whether fare integration with transit would be possible and/or desirable. There are no dockless scooters in my provincial home city (I think they’re actually banned until new regulations are passed) so I decided to give them a try now that I’m staying in Madrid for a few days… turns out, it’s actually cheaper to just take the metro for a few stations.

    As one commenter already pointed out, there’s a big difference between walking (or pedaling) your last 1-2 km home from the metro station and enjoying the breeze in a scooter, which is a much more palatable idea in Madrid’s 35ºC summer. There might be some potential there as an alternative for people who just drive all the way in.

    • Eric

      I think the real cost is higher than that, they are subsidized by venture capital, which can’t last forever.

      • michaelrjames

        A recent article in CityLab (link below) the author hires a personal Bird e-scooter for a month at $25. This was in San Francisco where Bird’s regular hire-scheme is banned but apparently this type of rental is exempted. The average of all the trips during the month (actually only 19 days) was close to 1 mile which again shows that this type of “micromobility” is displacing walking. During the period “his” scooter was stolen; he left it in public space locked to a bike rack but the thieves were professionals, with the lock untouched on the rack. He tracked it, using the app, and found it at a “sidewalk scooter chop shop” in the Tenderloin. He didn’t confront them but later reported it to the police, something necessary to protect himself against a Bird claim. The scooter apparently costs $1300 though the user has a $500 liability depending on what happens. To me, this demonstrates how unsustainable these schemes are. And it happened once in 19 days!

        He also took it across the bay on BART in peak hours (is this allowed?) and it beeped the whole way because it probably detected it was outside its nominally authorised zone. It is not one of those collapsible jobs so he found it tedious to keep upright the whole journey.

        https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/07/bird-monthly-rental-electric-scooter-san-francisco-barcelona/593065/
        What Happened When I Rented an E-Scooter for (Almost) a Month
        Bird’s new monthly rental program could force users and cities to reconsider e-scooters as a real mode of transportation. But there are some drawbacks.
        Benjamin Schneider, 30 June 2019.

  11. Martin

    In addition to people with disabilities, how about people going on dates where one person wears heals and will slap you if you ask for more than a 200 meter walk.

    Depending how upscale, TNC might be the only option.

    • michaelrjames

      Martin is probably English and I suspect I know what he is really on about:

      In These Shoes
      Kirsty MacColl [Written by Kirsty MacColl and Pete Glenister.]

      Then I met an Englishman
      “Oh” he said
      “Won’t you walk up and down my spine,
      It makes me feel strangely alive.”

      I said “In these shoes?
      I doubt you’d survive.”
      I said “Honey, let’s do it.
      Let’s stay right here.”

      No le gusta caminar. No puede montar a caballo
      Como se puede bailar? Es un escandolo
      …………………………………….

  12. michael

    I bring a bike with me on every bus trip to fill in the inadequacies of the transit network in my medium-size US city. The combination of bus/bike works well. It lets me use a higher frequency trunk route that’s 0.7 miles away, versus the low frequency route that’s 0.2 miles away. The problem of bus/bike is scale. Half the riders on the bus would be better served by bus/bike than bus/walk, but there’s only 2 spaces for bikes. And the risk of not getting one of them is having to wait 15+ minutes for the next bus or having to ride to the destination. The scooter solves a spatial problem since it can be brought on the bus.

    I’m not sure the dockless scooter fleets will really be the model of the future. If the cost of decent folding model is driven down under $200, I suspect many people will incorporate them into their commute.

    • Tonami

      The new Bird and Lime scooters in the SF Bay area are rather bulky(to reduce vandalism). The fact that they do not fold adds to the bulk. Personal e-scooters are more compact, fold-able and can be easily carried on the bus, but I don’t see the newer ruggedized share scooters as being any more compact than a bike.

      Also with most of the transit buses in the Bay area, if there is room on the Bus, you can take your bike on-board and up to 3 bikes can be stacked in the disable access area with flip-up seats. Most Buses have an external front loading rack for 3 bikes, plus 3 on the inside. I don’t know if other transit authorities allow this. But I see this every day on the suburban bus routes that serve suburban office parks far from the DUBLIN BART station.

      • michaelrjames

        I’d say the e-scooter rental story shows all the reasons why that scheme is going to be stillborn. And why, even with those more compact and foldable e-scooters are not a universal solution. I’m still unconvinced any of these alt micromobility schemes are really sustainable or better long term than the original Velib system (which perhaps might evolve to include e-scooters). There were three main issues with having my own bicycle when I lived in Paris and most of them still apply to personal (or rented) e-scooters: 1. security (the biggest bore, carting around several kilos of chain and locks while knowing they don’t stop the professionals); 2. weather (wearing all that protective clobber to stay dry and warm; the time it takes to put it on/take it off and then having to carry it around with you at your destination); 3. inconvenience w.r.t. multi-modal travel.
        Perhaps a collapsible e-scooter could solve the last one but you’d still be lumbered with it the whole day (and I know I am never going to leave any bike or scooter of mine “locked” in the public domain so that imposes another bore–probably many buildings won’t allow you to enter even with a collapsed scooter.

        A Velib type system, including the e-assist variety, solves all these issues and it copes with short and long journeys. You are never lumbered with it or its security hassles, and if the weather is awful you simply chose an alternative like walking or the Metro etc. The city doesn’t have the unholy mess of unregulated trash everywhere. I believe the regulations on scooters in places like SF and Paris are causing an inevitable evolution to such a model, in which if there is a role for the private sector it is closer to the one defined in Paris, ie. essentially a contractor to the city not some “free” (free-for-all) cowboy operation chasing possibly non-existent profits at public expense.

        • michael

          I am a little more optimistic about electric scooters is because it seems like only 2 things actually have to fall into place for it to be revolutionary.

          1) the scooter needs to be collapsible.
          2) there needs to be shelving.locker set up most places that a person regularly goes: work, school, groceries, gym, arenas. Even on the bus or train. Many places already have them.

          That’s a pretty small leap, all things considered. The flaw of the bike is spatial. We can’t put bike parking for 300 bikes in the hallway of an office building. But we can probably do that fairly easily for a scooter. But the dockless, rental concept. I don’t know. That seems like anarchy.

          • michaelrjames

            I agree. But you’ve actually described what I implied: a Velib-style system (for whatever, bike, e-bike, e-scooter) with fixed parking stations. A big advantage of e-scooters for a city Velib scheme is security. As you said, in a proper lock-box system to avoid both the stealing thing (a lot of which is apparently by professionals) and the vandalism thing. And an app that tells you location of parking stations and availability of devices and empty lockers.
            I don’t want to be lumbered with my own scooter (or bike) when tootling around inner-cities. This is one of the few things I might have in common with hipsters. OTOH since I am by no means a real customer for such things, my preferences are kind of irrelevant. Nevertheless I am unconvinced these Lime type hire schemes will be viable once their investor capital is exhausted. Of course I suppose it is just part of some evil master personal data capture scheme …

          • Alon Levy

            Yes, dockless anything has big problems with theft and vandalism, I believe more so than docked bikeshare (which has its own vandalism issues). However, it compensates by being vastly cheaper per unit. Velib has insanely high operating expenses and so do most other French docked systems, per an article from 2015 – the annual operating costs are around 2,000-4,000 euros per bike. The costs of dockless per bike are in the low hundreds.

          • adirondacker12800

            I’d want a forensic accountant to explain their books to me. Either of them, the people claiming it costs 4,000 or the people claiming hundreds.

          • michaelrjames

            adirondacker12800, 2019/07/04 – 13:36
            I’d want a forensic accountant to explain their books to me.

            I was going to say the same thing.
            Paris Velib apparently spends half its costs on redistribution (ie. correcting the uneven distribution of empty and full stations that tends to happen especially at peak hours) and one third on repairs and vandalism.

            All these private operators refuse to reveal their true costs but they certainly exist and are probably not far off Paris which after all is performed by a private operator who would be trying to reduce their costs.

            It’s why a lock box system set up at Velib-style stations is a partial solution. Though I suppose in Paris and many other cities certain standards need to be met for street aesthetics. Need a Guimard of digital micromobility! Maybe offer Jony Ive the job.

            The other thing that article points out:

            The user’s contribution to revenue does not exceed 5% or 10%, compared to 20% to 30% for a bus or subway.

  13. adirondacker12800

    6 bikes per parking space in the parking lot that is twice the size of the building means they would lose 50 parking spaces. Well…. gain 250 because those people wouldn’t be parking a car.

    • michael

      The issue that I see in the downtown of my mid-sized US city is that cheap & convenient car parking has since the 1960s represented the choke on all downtown office real estate development. Cost of parking adds about 30-40% to the cost of office rents, either being absorbed by the employer or employee. Everyone sort of intuitively recognizes that if parking is “solved,” there’s huge amounts of demand behind that choke point.

      But there’s two competing visions. Either EXPAND mid-day capacity through mass transit, cycling, roads/parking garages, etc. Or ACCEPT that capacity is at a choke point because of mid-day parking issues and pivot the comprehensive planning toward residential & entertainment where there’s nighttime overcapacity.

      Given the political realities, most city residents made peace with the off-peak vision about 20 years & moved on. The result is infill apartments, hotels, more night life, more events, and a vision that has radically de-prioritized downtown office development. In fact, quite a few office buildings have been converted to housing, offset by a trickle of office construction. The end result is that office capacity continues to be choked at basically 1990 levels, while everything continues to grow in around it. At this point, there’s really very little political will for expanding mid-day peak capacity across ANY mode: car, transit, bike.

      That’s a long way of saying, where I think scooters are potentially disruptive is expanding mid-day peak capacities without public investment.

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