The e-scooter deal is done: For a full year, a minimum of 4,000 e-scooters will be here to stay in the City by the Bay. And that’s just for starts, since if the four companies that got licenses play nicely that number gets automatically bumped to 2,500 each, meaning 10,000. Can you say “Scooters everywhere”? Sure. But does that mean you love ‘em or hate ‘em?
Scooter lovers are due to be giddy in love while detractors are bound to be livid, starting quite soon. Perhaps we should say that “Complaint-ageddon” is coming from one side of the issue and “Scooter Heaven” is coming for the rest of us. Either way, the argument is already well under way.
The invasion begins for San Francisco on October 15th with the support of Mayor London Breed. In an interview with the Examiner, Mayor Breed said that she wants to see scooters throughout the San Francisco area. She was quoted as saying “I like scooters. You can ride ‘em in a dress.”
City supervisor Aaron Peskin rapidly came out against the measure, though, saying that the transit authority was creating “scooter-geddon part two”. Buzz kill.
While the onslaught of mass e-scooters may upset many, riders obviously love ‘em and the city has certainly done some clear due diligence. (At least the mayor seems pleased.) The 2019 results aren’t posted, but the 2018 evaluation scoresheet is online for all to see; 13 companies took a stab at approval for the pilot program but only two—Scoot and Skip—were approved. A quick look at the study shows why, since the “Strong” (meaning “successful”) symbols on the chart stand out like a sore thumb. Scoot and Skip had piles of ‘em and only had one “Poor” rating out of 12 ratings while most applicants scored much worse.
We can only assume that the four companies chosen for the permanent program got lots of “S” ratings this year; JUMP, Lime, Scoot and Spin got the nod. Some of the areas rated on applications included categories like community outreach, sustainability and safety, and last year there were a total of 12 ratings. Notably, Skip didn’t make the cut this time, though we won’t know why until the PDF hits the transit authority website.
Want to know something wonderful about scooters to bolster your conversations? How about this: The Environmental Protection Agency says that if U.S. drivers chose scooters instead of driving for just half of car trips shorter than a mile they’d save 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and save about $900 million in fuel costs. Woohoo! and way to go, eco-warriors! Besides, scooters in town mean less traffic, which means fewer drivers getting in the way of scooter fun.
No matter what studies you look up, those who think scooters are evil due to safety issues may have a tough argument to make because e-scooters have turned out to generally be pretty safe according to statistics. A CDC study found just 20 accidents per 100,000 rides, as we’ve previously pointed out here. (Helmets, people; just wear your helmets.)
The two-sided nature of the issue comes through in a Los Angeles study finding that 250 people had gone to the hospital due to scooter accidents while presenting thoroughly conflicting commentary and interpretations. “Ooh, it’s bad” and “isn’t it great?” at the same time, in the same study.
How bad was it, really? Not bad at all, and mostly banged up elbows and knees as you might expect. More than 90% of injuries were riders smacking into something, while the rest were pedestrians being run down by ‘those people’ on two wheels. (Yet doesn’t it feel great to be the rebel, jump on one of these things and zip through town?)
We have been seeing the expected exception: In that study fewer than 5% of the riders were wearing helmets and in other studies the percentages have been even worse. Tsk, tsk, people! Carry a helmet and *then* ride. Get out there and represent!
Good news, scooter companies and helmet makers have teamed up to discount helmets (like this take-a-selfie discount) and Lime and Bird have both been giving away helmets like crazy. The two companies actually came together to create a Public Policy and Safety Board of their own back in June. Did you know that you can take the “Respect the Ride” safety pledge and get a free helmet? The program started in 2018 and the company is promising to distribute 250,000 free helmets. That happened, for instance, in Fort Lauderdale in February this year according to this Sun Sentinel story.
California is for Fun! And so is Chicago…
San Franciscans are 100% NOT required to have a helmet (welcome to California), and you can head over to Chicago and ride without that bowl on your head, too. But the word from emergency medical techs who see the action on the streets is ‘get a basket for your dome’.
Scooter companies are publicly pushing hard for three minimal things: Wear a helmet, use bike lanes and park responsibly. Injuries happen, sometimes bad ones – understood. Don’t run over the pedestrians – got it. But perhaps the biggest crank-up-the-complainers things are zooming down the sidewalk through pedestrian foot traffic (use the road, especially the bike lane) and leaving scooters parked in the middle of the sidewalk (definite no-no and worth a citation in San Francisco.)
Can we say that the average e-scooter rider doesn’t do scooter stunts in the X Games? Some studies have found that more than half of riders were either drunk or under the influence of “some other substance”. Well, that could explain a lot.
Still, with such low injury statistics (38 bumps or bruises per million miles is pretty good), can we agree that injuries aren’t the big issue?
So, will things improve with the San Francisco program? Improvements across the board were the purpose of the pilot study, which we reported on here. The San Francisco Metro Transit Authority has, for example, made a point of requiring specifics for parking rental scooters. There were requirements for the scooters themselves, too, like locks that allow attaching the scooters to nearby objects, riders must wear helmets, etc.
But the pilot program was a smashing success, according to Tom Maguire of the transit authority. “We’re going to double the number of operators, double the number of scooters and double the number of neighborhoods the scooter can operate in,” said Tom Maguire of the SFMTA. “We learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t.”
So, people of ‘Frisco, get a helmet, don’t run over pedestrians, park out of the sidewalk and see if you can’t avoid collisions with those annoying trees and road surfaces… and have fun!