Why the e-scooter debate misses the point.

Everyone’s got a cheeky opinion about e-scooters.

Here’s mine: They’re a hopeful vision of what a sustainable future looks like.

Rather than jump on my soapbox right away, I’ll pause for naysayers and concede a few obvious and overstated points:

They say: E-scooters are a safety hazard. Riders don’t abide bike laws. They ride on sidewalks instead of bike lanes and they don’t wear helmets.

I say: People have said the same thing about whatever wasn’t walking (trains, cars, planes) long before scooters. Also, follow safety laws whenever possible and fine people for doing dangerous shit.

They say: Bike lanes aren’t up to par in some areas around Portland, and its those areas that also have a lot to gain from having an affordable and sustainable ride share program.

I say: Push the city to invest in bike friendly infrastructure everywhere. Which by the way, is not suddenly an issue because of scooters…

They say: People should walk or ride their bikes instead.

I say: This argument assumes everyone is able-bodied and can/wants to walk or bike for  longer distances.  Also, wait for the trend to pass and people will use them as they’re intended to be used rather than as a photo op for Insta.

They say: They’re an eyesore.

I say: People driving horse and buggies probably thought the same things about cars and bicycles. Oh and, the effects of climate change are the real eyesore.

Our planet is peril, and so are we. I don’t recall rampant fires and extreme temperatures ever being a part of Oregon summers growing up. Climate change is here. And we have it easy compared to the developing world and island communities. I yearn to see evidence of daily life evolving in more sustainable ways, even if they’re imperfect. I’d much rather see a few scooters parked along the street than see a scorched and inhospitable world like the one I imagine from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

It’s probably easier to complain about e-scooters than to think about the consequences of climate change for all of us in 30-40 years. But, we should be thinking about it because baby boomers sure weren’t (and aren’t). Sure, any new technology whose aim is to combat the serious reality that our planet is in crisis is going to have a trial period. Does that mean we should disregard eco-progress?

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So when I went to breakfast with my husband this morning and he went home while I went to yoga, I decided to try one of these cuties out. Yes, I could have walked the 30 minutes home, and I often do, and will do again. Yes, we could have biked from our house to Stark for breakfast. We bike all the time and will bike again. We just didn’t this morning.

I have Lime, Bird, and Skip apps all downloaded on my phone. After yoga, I saw that a Lime scooter was close, so I walked a few blocks to find it parked in the shade set away from the street and sidewalk. I hit the Scan to Ride button and was able to easily scan the QR code on the scooter to unlock it. A few kicks and press of the gas later, and I was off.

I was actually planning to take a scooter home, so I wanted to bring my helmet, but I forgot. In the future, if I know I’m going to take a scooter, I’ll definitely clip one to my bag as I’m headed out the door.

I stayed in the bike lines the whole time and made it home in about 15 minutes. I avoided steep hills and stayed off sidewalks.

The ride cost me $1 to unlock the scooter and .15 cents per minute. It was a $4 ride with a $1 discount (I don’t know why… probably some promo thing). And I saved some carbon: 897g. I don’t know what that really means, but I know I used less carbon than driving and probably a little more than walking.

Personally, my biggest complaint about the scooters is that they’re electric and require someone to pick them up and charge their batteries. Why can’t these be charged with a solar panel? Would people steal them? Would solar panels not conduct enough energy to power the thing? I’m not an engineer or a scientist, but surely they could figure that out.

Though they may not be perfect, when I see someone using an e-scooter, I think, this is the kind of different the future will need to look like if we’re going to have a future.

Every little bit helps. And we need every little bit.

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Further Reading:

3 thoughts on “Why the e-scooter debate misses the point.”

  1. I’m embarrassed to admit I’m one of the Boomers. I think about this stuff, but you’re right. My generation was co-opted long ago. I have been cycling for transportation for about 50 years, but my lungs don’t want any more distance riding, and I have other issues. Where I live (Columbus, Ohio), transit doesn’t cover various parts of the city. I’m about to buy a good electric scooter. (Lime and Bird don’t cover this part of Columbus, and in the long term the cost works out better than rentals with heavy use.)

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    1. I messed up and posted before finishing. I want to thank you for your very coherent post. The bottom line, for me, is that electric scooters are absolutely the most minimal powered vehicle for a person, and that is my determining factor.

      Like

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