Cycling
July 2, 2019

The Coming Disruption of the Electric Scooter

When it comes to the inevitable disruption that will be caused by the proliferation of electric bikes, scooters and every possible hybrid, we are so not ready.  It’s the one big thing I learned from last month’s trip to Tel Aviv, and saw this:

Scooters (and electric bikes) are everywhere in Tel Aviv – by the thousands.  Like an invasive species, it took only two years for them to fill a mobility niche, and there’s likely no possible way to exterminate them now.

Though there is the occasional sighting in Vancouver, so far the private scooter-share companies – notably Lime and Bird – have been prevented from taking root.  Like Uber, the Province has kept them at bay by making their use functionally illegal.  Here’s the situation as described in the new Active Transportation Design Guide:

Legality of E-Scooters and Other Small, One Person Electric Vehicles

At the time of writing, e-scooters (and similar small, one-person electric vehicles such as hoverboards, motorized skateboards, and self balancing electric unicycles) are not permitted on public roadways or sidewalks in B.C.

The B.C. MVA defines these vehicle types as motor vehicles, but they do not meet provincial equipment safety standards for on-street use. E-scooters and similar vehicle types may only be operated where the B.C. MVA does not apply, such as on private property that does not have public vehicle access, and on trails or pathways (if allowed by municipal bylaw).

Many of the laws that ban e-scooters were developed under different mobility contexts. As demand for these technologies and others grow, the policies may need to be updated.

Um, ‘may’?   Scooters, in particular, are gaining global popularity.  They’re cheap, compact, flexible, zero-emission, noiseless, practical, fun and hip.

There is no way to stop people from buying them.  And if the law says there’s no legal way to use them, then the law will be seen as irrelevant unless rigorously and punitively enforced. And why would we do that when this is exactly the kind of transportation we want to encourage in a ‘climate emergency.’

There will be more to come on the particular circumstances in Tel Aviv.  But we need to prepare ourselves now for the impact of this new mobility.  May I suggest we send the necessary authorities to Tel Aviv for a couple of weeks with instructions that, during that time, they cannot use a car.

 

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Spotted on Georgia, a scooter (non-electric).  This one struck me as odd only because it was so rare.

 

Why hasn’t there been a sudden inundation of dockless electric scooters like Lime, Bird and others that have appeared in cities from San Diego to Seattle?  It’s surely only a matter of time.

To councillors (who would like to avoid having to make decisions on any more bike lanes), get ready for their presence on sidewalks.  If you want to avoid that conflict, then that may mean making provision for scooter/bike lanes.

 

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Sandy James Image

Price Tags Vancouver has been discussing how and when Vancouver will be addressing scooters. And we mean all things about scooters~where they are left, where they will be allowed to  operate, and what the restrictions will be on companies bringing them to Vancouver. .

In a city that does not have a surplus of taxis and with taxis unwilling to do short trips, and with no ride share options on the immediate horizon, other alternatives are needed. There is definitely a latent demand  for short trips, and scooters are one way to go. The Seattle Department of Transportation”s definition of “shareable mobility devices”  include “tricycles, handcycles, tandem cycles, electric scooters, and others” with a view to providing transportation options to disabled residents. Seattle is also looking at hefty licencing fees of  up to $250,000 if four vendors apply. The Reuters clip below shows that vendors make their money back in two to three weeks with scooter shares.

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They’re back in San Francisco.

As locals hop aboard, complain about the scooters taking up street space, compete to collect and charge them, and hurl them into lakes, municipalities are left to wonder: How do we manage these things? Some, like Austin, have decided to let the companies be. Others, like San Francisco and Santa Monica, have cracked down, limiting which companies can operate, and how.

As with Uber, Vancouver is apparently being cautious.  Or has it just not had to confront the scooter reality when some venture-bro decides to dump them on us?

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