Friday, November 30, 2018

E-scooters - saving cities or ruining them?

E-scooters. These little buggers started filling streets of our cities in a rapid pace. For some, they are godsent, letting people move around quickly and efficiently, avoiding heavy car traffic. For others, they are a disgrace, clogging city streets and cluttering cityscape. Some US cities started regulating scooters, essentially trying to figure out where to place them among cars and bicycles.
Interestingly, bicycle advocates quickly realized that scooter companies could be potential allies. The advocates have been asking for a better cycling infrastructure for years, often to be left with some bits and pieces of randomly disconnected bike lanes. But then came the scooters and their companies started pushing for more space to ride or for a less-restrictive helmet laws. Sometimes it worked - New York finally decided to move towards legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters:

Following such news, I would expect most bike-lovers to like scooters as well. Then, to my surprise, I bumped into this tweet from Mikael Colville-Andersen, a well-know advocate for cycling for transport and building livable cities:

As you can tell, my response was straightforward - scooters over cars! To which he replied:
I admit I didn't fully understand his hostility towards this simple, alternative way of transportation, but now I think that he's against scooters in the city because he sees them as a threat to bicycles, not cars.

You see, Mikael is a Dane, living in Copenhagen - a city where bicycles are a normal mode of transport. Actually, in the downtown of Copenhagen bicycles are likely the dominant mode!

This is in stark contrast to all American cities where most people drive, some take public transport and very few travel by bikes. As such, the arrival of scooters in US cities was mostly well-received by many bike advocates as these small, simple electric vehicles could help reducing our dependency on cars and eventually move people onto bicycles as well.

But not in Copenhagen. There, bikes are prevalent and few people would prefer to drive into the downtown. As such, electrically-powered scooters present a threat to bicycles and have to compete with them for space on city streets. That explains why Mikael would rather see people to use their bikes instead of switching to scooters.

Whether e-scooters are just a temporary fashion or they stay here for longer, they may persuade some people to leave their cars in the driveway. It won't be easy though. The struggle for prying American butts off driver seats is going to be a difficult one.

1 comment:

  1. I used to zip around on a kids' scooter in the city for a while, but the wheels are so small, you've got to be constantly paying attention to the surface. That's my only qualm with these e-scoots. They need bigger wheels! There's an interesting study out of Portland, Oregon about their scooters, that scoot trips mostly replaced walk trips, and some car trips. They would work so well in Copenhagen, where the cyclist commuters already ride much faster (on average) than North American cities.