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Scooters are not the end of the world

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“New things can happen in a good way”

San Francisco Battles New Electric Scooter Rentals
A scooter rider doing it the right way.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Electric scooters, a seemingly simple device to transport people short distances, have taken the Bay Area by storm. However, after the electric scooters landed on city sidewalks less than a month ago—rented and owned by Bird, Lime, and Spin—the internet has lit up with knee-jerk reactions to the urban-mobility devices. Some literally calling users “jerks.”

Now the backlash to the backlash has begun.

The New York Times has weighed in on the two-wheeled brouhaha in an interview with Bird founder Travis VanderZanden. Among other tidbits, the CEO, a former vice president of growth at Uber, claims that regulating his scooters would be discrimination against low-income people. Buying an electric scooter can anywhere from $200 to $1,000, while renting scooters costs $1, plus 10 cents to 15 cents per minute.

“Not everyone can afford their own electric scooter,” said VanderZanden, whose company raised $115 million from investors. “We shouldn’t discriminate against people that are renting versus owning.”

Even some lawmakers are calling for a more conciliatory approach.

As we know, State Senator Scott Wiener doesn’t fear brand-spanking new ideas. His SB 827, the now-stalled bill that would have helped building housing along transit stops, being a prime example. His frankness on pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, or PrEP, another.

Now Wiener is out here defending the scooter, too.

The senator also provided examples of scooters behaving nicely.

A nice counterbalance to the scenes of riders of ill-repute.

Furthermore, Wiener isn’t wrong; the scooters are not only practical (being whisked short distances from point A to point B is irresistible), but many riders are using them as intended, in bike lanes. And anything that gets cars off the road, no matter how small the impact, can’t be all bad.

What’s more, the scooters look like a lot of fun.

A post shared by Lee J Buckley (@lee_j_buckley) on

A recent Bird press release breathlessly claims the company just reached 1 million rides with more than 90,000 miles traveled. These numbers, however, were reached in seven months time from seven different cities.

There’s still a lot to be worked out as far as regulation, as pointed out by New York Times writer Mike Issac (who is working on a book about Uber). Yet, he, too, has been subject to his own backlash for daring to criticize the startups.

In related news, a new bill, AB 2989, authored by San Joaquin Valley representative Heath Flora (R) and lobbied by Bird, could make it legal for people to ride scooters on sidewalks. The bill is now working its way through the Assembly Transportation Committee.