Fleets prove con­tro­ver­sial in US as ac­ci­dents put hun­dreds in hos­pi­tal

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Technology Intelligence - OLIVIA RUDGARD in San Fran­cisco

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.

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