Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Metro council voted down a bill that would ban scooters

by Rod Williams - Metro council voted down a bill that would ban scooters in Nashville at last

night's Council meeting. The bill, sponsored by Steve Glover, failed, with only seven council members voting in favor of the ban. While I am a supporter of Steve Glover's election campaign, I disagree with him on this issue and am pleased this bill was defeated.

In July, council approved a bill that kept scooters on Nashville streets, but it added new regulations. The bill implemented "slow zones" in areas of downtown Nashville and prohibited scooters from operating past 10:00 p.m during the week and 11:00 p.m. during the weekends. It also limited the number of scooters.

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. Recently, 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 scooters passed me coming up to me from behind and at the same time others scooters were coming down the sidewalk heading toward me. These two groups of scooters had to pass on the sidewalk and I had to get out of the way. 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 drivers, scooters are also used by a lot of locals. Recently, 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 to park on the sidewalks at all, but require the scooter companies to lease parking spaces for conversion to scooter corrals. I tend to think scooters 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. I approve of the new scooter "slow zones." 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.

Unfortunately, in my view, back in July when the Council passed the bill that imposed new scooter regulations, the bill also mandated a fifty percent reduction in the number of scooters allowed on the streets. I oppose that. Artificially capping the number 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. Most things work themselves out, if government will stay out of the way. Regulation for safety is a different kind of regulation than the kind of economic regulations that sets limits or prices. We should not be in the business of protecting people from competition.

I also do not want to require riders to wear helmets. So far we have not done so, but some advocate that.  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.

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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