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.
1/2 Scooter-geddon is upon us. Listen, these guys screwed up by not seeking permits. Riding scooters on sidewalks isn’t ok. Dumping them all over isn’t ok. But, the reaction to the coming of the scooters has also been extreme. Scooters are a good thing. https://t.co/pBVaYClj4v— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) April 21, 2018
2/2 Scooters are an affordable, easy way for folks to get around w/o using a car. They take up massively less space than other vehicles. Let’s get them permitted & avoid negative impacts. Let’s not have a knee-jerk “the sky is falling because something new is happening” reaction.— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) April 21, 2018
The senator also provided examples of scooters behaving nicely.
politely riding on the street, not the sidewalk. pic.twitter.com/FgtWU8PijX— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) April 22, 2018
Scooters not blocking sidewalks! New things can happen in a good way! pic.twitter.com/uyPzcRCT6k— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) April 22, 2018
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 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.
few things ill point out in response to counterarguments im getting:— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) April 15, 2018
you can be anti-NIMBY and still be upset at lack of privco civic cooperation
ideas that reduce cars, congestion and emissions are positive
it is possible to be upset by more than one city problem at a time
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.
- Everything you need to know about the great electric-scooter takeover of San Francisco [Curbed SF]
- Electric Scooters Are Causing Havoc. This Man Is Shrugging It Off. [NYT]
- Why is everyone going crazy over electric scooters in California? [Electrek]
- Silicon Valley’s scooter scourge is coming to an end [Engadget]
- Scooters behaving badly: Photos show the worst-parked scooters in San Francisco [SFGate]