Fleets prove controversial in US as accidents put hundreds in hospital
Scooters, like bicycles before them, are being presented as a solution to growing congestion and public-transport squeezes in cities. But there are also whispers that they could hold the key to a problem that has baffled city planners – why women don’t cycle as much as men. According to Cycling UK, in 2016 men cycled an average of 87 miles, while women cycled just 20 over the year.
Could the scooter help get women out of buses and cars and on to the streets? Recent research by Populus of 7,000 people across 10 US cities found more women than men had a positive view of e-scooters. The head of sustainability at Lime says there’s a “hipness” to scooters which widens their appeal.
However, it’s not clear how scooters can change these issues.
In San Francisco, where two companies – Scoot and Skip – have launched, they’re easy to ride, great fun and an extremely efficient way to get around. But you still have to share the road with cars, and you don’t feel any safer than if you were on a bike.
‘Riders run red lights and zoom along pavements, which does nothing to endear them to pedestrians’
The biggest controversy around these scooters has been a slew of accidents which have sent hundreds to hospital across America.
The companies argue there is safety in numbers – the more people scooting, the safer they are. While this holds up in relation to bicycles, the scooters come with their own issues.
They can go quite quickly – up to 15mph – and feel less steady than a bike. Riders run red lights and zoom along pavements, which does nothing to endear them to pedestrians.
The scooters have benefits, and can ease congestion and reduce air pollution. If they take off, they could persuade cities that protected lanes are a worthy investment, something that has been an uphill struggle almost everywhere.
But the companies need to tread carefully. Their fleets have been controversial in many US cities, with residents complaining that they block pavements and cause accidents.
A botched introduction in the UK risks setting back efforts to improve shared transport by years.