Saturday, July 6, 2019

Should electric scooters be banned? Here is what the mayoral candidates think and here is what I think.

David Briley and Carol Swain say "yes;" Clemmons and Cooper say "No." Watch this Channel 4 report to see a slightly expanded explanation for the candidates' opinions.

In my view scooters should not be banned. That is not to say that I do not think we have scooter problem as it exist now.  Today, while walking from my home near Wedgewood and Eighth Ave toward downtown,  I had two scooters zoom by me on the sidewalk passing on my left.  I say "zoomed," but they probably were going no faster than a jogger who passes a person walking, but it seemed fast. If I would have inadvertently stepped to my left, I could have been run over by the scooter or the scooter to avoid hitting me could have careened off the sidewalk into the path of a car.  After that harrowing incident, later other scooter passed me coming up to me from behind and coming down the sidewalk were scooters heading toward me. These two groups of scooters had to pass on the sidewalk. That is dangerous.

I have also observed scooters switching from sidewalks to street and cut corners at intersection and driving between cars and doing other dangerous things. I am not for an outright ban on scooters however, because I thing we need to welcome innovation and market forces to solve our transportation problems.  We need a multimodal approach to transportation. We need options. They are not here yet, but on the way are electric bicycles which will add another transportation option that will probably be as popular, maybe more popular, than the scooters. If we have banned scooters, the electric bicycle will probably be reluctant to come to Nashville.

While a lot of young, often probably impaired, tourist zip around town on scooters enhancing their Nashville tourist experience and making life more stressful for pedestrians and drives, scooters are also used by a lot of locals.  In the last week, I talked to two locals who ride scooters.  One was a waiter at Southern Oyster and Steak on 3rd Ave. South.  Parking is outrageously expensive downtown, especially for a guy on a waiters salary.  This guy parks his car at the Nissan stadium across the river and scoots to work and back to his car every day.  The other person was an attorney who works at the Beacon Center and uses a scooter to get to and from a parking garage several blocks away.

I do think we need more regulations. We should tolerate them being parked on the sidewalk but require they be parked unobtrusively. Certain busy blocks should not allow scooters on the sidewalks but require the scooter companies to lease parking spaces for conversion to scooter corrals. I tend to think they should be banned from being ridden on the sidewalks. If allowed at all on the sidewalk however, they should be allowed to be driven at only a rate of speed equal to that of someone walking at a fast pace and be required to sound a warning when approaching a pedestrian from the rear. The rules should be posted around town and on the app when one rents the scooter. Enforcement could be paid for with a tax or fee charged to the scooter owners. 

I do not want a limit placed on the number of scooters.  Artificially capping the numbers makes those who have them on our streets, have a more valuable product and the ability to charge more.  We should not enrich those lucky enough to win the scooter lottery.  There will be a number at which it will not be profitable to add more scooters. We should let the market determine that number.  When electric bicycles come to Nashville, they will cut into the scooter market.

I also do not want to require riders to wear helmets.  I know helmets may save lives but people should be free to evaluate the risk for themselves after being made aware of the risk. While scooter owners could make helmets available at certain locations such as hotels, requiring every scooter user to wear a helmet is simply impractical.  Also, I don't like wearing a helmet myself. I don't want to stop other people from having fun. I occasionally bicycle. I enjoy biking much more without a helmet. I have visited my daughter who lives in New Orleans and biking is so much more fun in New Orleans.  New Orleans does not have a bicycle helmet law.  Of course New Orleans has no hills also and that is a factor in making bicycling more fun. Since the introduction of scooters to Nashville, I have taken to not wearing a helmet, figuring that with all of the helmetless scooter riders, the police are not going to choose to pick on me to enforce the helmet law.

Don't ban the scooters, impose reasonable regulations, learn to share the road, don't resent other people having fun, and let innovation and the market solve our transportation problems.

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