When you reside in a serious metropolis on the West Coast or in handful of cities on the East Coast, you in all probability have an opinion on the electrical scooters which were dropped haphazardly onto your native streets and sidewalks. And it’s in all probability not a constructive one. However I’m right here to inform you why scooters may simply get us to our local weather change objectives, and scale back pedestrian fatalities at the similar time.
Like lots of you, my first response to the flocks of Chook scooters dropped onto UCLA’s campus in January of this yr was unadulterated hatred. My very first sighting was a scooter screaming previous me on the sidewalk solely to slam on the brakes to narrowly keep away from careening immediately right into a pedestrian. Sidewalks and constructing entrances seemed like graveyards for deserted scooters, creating large accessibility obstacles. They have been all over the place, a 21st century iteration of Hitchcock’s The Birds. I took to photographing the most annoying scooter parking jobs:
However a number of weeks in the past, I talked to CNN Enterprise about whether or not Los Angeles was neglecting its local weather change obligations by imposing laws on the quantity and operation of electrical scooters in the metropolis. I identified that redesigning our streets to be extra pleasant to non-vehicular types of transportation (strolling, biking, and sure, scooting) had to be a key a part of any plan to scale back our carbon emissions.
Was I now (*gasp*) pro-scooter? What had modified?
For one, I’d been transformed by sensible writers and urbanists like Alissa Walker at Curbed who’ve appropriately reframed the difficulty to concentrate on our poorly designed streets. Somewhat than blaming scooter riders (scooterists?) for driving on the sidewalk, why not look askance at our flawed road design that prioritizes automobiles to the exclusion of all different modes of transportation?
This summer time, Metropolis Councilmember Paul Koretz penned a daft Letter to the Editor in the LA Occasions defending his determination to introduce a ban on scooters and decrying the hazard to pedestrians from the scooter “infestation.” (This, in fact, can be the similar Metropolis Councilmember who has personally blocked including new bike lanes to Westwood Boulevard close to UCLA’s campus, and simply final yr referred to as for banning all bikes from that very same road.) StreetsBlogLA had the good rebuttal. Should you changed references to scooting with driving, Koretz’s letter made an entire lot extra sense:
Now, a category motion lawsuit has been filed towards Hen, Lime, and different scooter corporations, claiming that “scores (if not hundreds) of riders and pedestrians and members of the public have suffered, are continuing to suffer and will continue to suffer egregious and avoidable injuries and damage to their person and property” because of scooters.
However like Paul Koretz’s letter, this lawsuit misses the level. What’s actually liable for the most pedestrian deaths? It’s not scooters. The actual offender is poor road design prioritizing automobiles, which have been killing pedestrians in report numbers. 134 pedestrians have been killed by Los Angeles drivers simply final yr, a 15 yr excessive. Visitors collisions at the moment are the main reason for demise for youngsters in Los Angeles. And the county is repeatedly named the worst in the nation for biking thanks to 180 bike owner deaths in the final 5 years (a better complete in Los Angeles County than all however three states in that very same time interval).
Coincidentally, the greatest measures to tackle these security considerations additionally will assist us meet our local weather change objectives: by getting automobiles off the street. Metropolis Councilmember Paul Buscaino agrees, and in a rebuttal to Councilmember Koretz in the LA Every day Information, factors out that the greatest means to scale back visitors fatalities is by getting automobiles off the street, not by over-regulating options technique of transportation:
. . .
We’d like to scale back visitors congestion not by constructing extra visitors lanes, however by decreasing automotive journeys and meaning creating multi-modal choices that make public transportation out there to extra of our inhabitants.
Think about if our cities have been crammed with streets that prioritized non-vehicular modes of transit: repaired and widened sidewalks, parklets, visitors lights with main pedestrian intervals, scramble crosswalks, protected bike and scooter lanes, curb extensions and bollards to decelerate visitors. Los Angeles (together with many different cities) already has a plan to implement these sorts of “road diets” all through the metropolis: the Imaginative and prescient Zero program, which has the aim of eliminating all visitors deaths by 2025. And CARB has already revealed vital analysis demonstrating that these sorts of methods to promote strolling and biking have a measurable impression on decreasing car miles traveled (VMT).
Decreasing VMT is a key a part of any plan to scale back our transportation emissions, now the largest single sector of carbon emissions. CARB is looking for a considerable discount in complete light-duty VMT as a part of the state’s 2016 Cellular Supply Technique — setting a objective of 15% discount in complete light-duty VMT by 2050 versus the at present anticipated baseline. With out elevated concentrate on methods to scale back VMT, CARB predicts “growth in VMT [will] outpace vehicle fuel efficiency improvements” by 2030. In different phrases, even in the most optimistic situations for low- and zero-emission car gross sales, carbon emissions from automobiles will proceed to develop in the close to time period as a result of individuals hold driving extra and extra, growing VMT.
The IPCC’s new report signifies that our emissions should peak no later than 2020 to keep away from the most catastrophic results of local weather change. Because of this the actions we absorb the subsequent 15 months are essential. We’re definitely not going to get to 100% ZEV adoption by 2020, so specializing in VMT methods like street diets that may be carried out comparatively shortly are completely important to decreasing our close to time period transportation emissions. (See additionally Alissa Walker’s wonderful new piece at present on profitable VMT discount measures in Sacramento and Davis)
So right here’s the place I get again to scooters. Bike lanes in Los Angeles haven’t historically been met with nice fanfare. Simply in the final yr, a number of street diets that concerned buying and selling automotive lanes for bike lanes have been reversed, one after Westside residents threatened to recall Metropolis Councilmember Mike Bonin for his position in approving the bike lanes. The brand new protected bike lanes on Figueroa and Spring streets downtown are often blocked by parked automobiles.
However now scooterists are a quickly rising new constituency utilizing Los Angeles roads. Hen alone reportedly had 15,000 scooters in use throughout the metropolis earlier than a convoluted cap imposed by the Los Angeles Metropolis Council went into impact. And authorities representatives have been listening to from this new constituency. When Santa Monica was contemplating its laws, scooter corporations banded collectively for a “Day Without A Scooter” protest and coordinated riders to e mail metropolis leaders and testify at the public listening to (Santa Monica’s Planning & Group Improvement Division would ultimately approve a scooter pilot program). Likewise, the Los Angeles Metropolis Council acquired greater than 2,300 letters of help whereas debating scooter ban versus cap (the Council would ultimately approve a cap quite than an outright ban).
It’s my hope that this newly engaged constituency, some showing to be first-time members in native authorities planning, will use this muscle to battle again towards the car-centric voices which have dominated native politics for therefore lengthy. Cyclists have definitely been drowned out, failing to push again in any significant approach to the public outcry towards street diets on the Westside. After years of stagnation and outright backsliding on bike lanes in the metropolis, I take it as an encouraging step in the different path that metropolis leaders in each Santa Monica and Los Angeles have voted to keep, and even increase, the variety of scooters on our streets.
That’s not to say there aren’t official considerations about scooters. Corporations have been rightly criticized for failing to share knowledge, making it troublesome to decide whether or not scooter rides are displacing automotive journeys or strolling/biking/transit journeys. Some posit that as a result of the common scooter journey is simply over a mile, they’re extra doubtless to be displacing strolling journeys. However provided that the majority of journeys lower than one mile in the US are pushed, I assume it’s extra doubtless scooter journeys are displacing automotive journeys and serving to make final mile connections from transit than displacing strolling journeys. There are additionally considerations about their carbon neutrality given the cutthroat underground market that has developed by which individuals drive round accumulating scooters to cost them in a single day (and new plans for doorstep supply of scooters). The requirement to have a driver’s license, bank card, and smartphone so as to lease a scooter, and the disproportionate numbers of scooters in locations like Santa Monica versus decrease revenue areas, additionally increase critical fairness and accessibility points (a few of which at the moment are being addressed as cities start to regulate scooters). On the different hand, scooters are an affordable various to Uber and Lyft that would profit neighborhoods poorly served by public transit as a last-mile connection (and one which has the added advantage of not polluting the neighborhood with extra fossil gasoline combustion).
FULL DISCLOSURE: the writer has but to truly journey a scooter, preferring the dependability of her street bike. However that simply means you’ll be able to belief me as an unbiased observer, proper?
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