The implausibility of proposed microtransportion policies.
The implausibility of proposed microtransportion policies.
Smarter scooter sharing policies won’t help, but smarter scooters will.
Scooter sharing has rendered an otherwise promising product, an electric micromobility platform, into a public nuisance. Even ardent supporters concede that massive changes must be made in order for them to realize their potential. But the regulatory hurdles and human behaviors that must be transformed for scooter sharing into a sustainable system are sisyphean.
A large part of the conversation is currently dedicated to solving the space problem. Some proposed solutions have been, reclaiming space currently dedicated to parked cars, designing safe/efficient distribution zones for delivery vehicles. These changes require a lot of time, money, and when once they pass, the development, implementation, and enforcement is not assured success. Expanding bike and scooter lanes is one that would be amazing, and the scooter sharing companies have said they will invest in those initiatives, which is fantastic news. When all that is said and done, every plausible policy put into place, the final question we must ask ourselves is ‘what problem will come next?’
There is a way to zoom past all that, adopt a thoughtful way to benefit from the public’s newfound embrace of electric scooter’s advantages.
Let’s imagine that we could only change the scooters, not the people, not the cities. Say there was a scooter that had all the safety measures described, that was so compact and lightweight to could be bench pressed by anyone, and you could fit 6 beneath a park bench?
Relying on lawmakers to pass plausible policies must be followed up by the question ‘and then what?’. Let’s imagine there’s a unanimous pass of all the best ideas people have proposed, like-
We haven’t achieved all of these technical modifications quite yet, but what we have so far is a scooter that all of our customers have ridden with respect and they are informed of safety regulations. This is a problem that can only be solved by starting with technology-- not people. Products are predictable, reliable, not liable to let you down nearly as often.
With thousands of impoundings, injuries, several fatalities, scooter sharing have so far harmed us more than hindered. Companies have admitted that they are merely carbon-neutral, but have they factored in the production and destruction life cycles of scooters that add to waste around the world? With thousands recalled, impounded, retired and vandalised, it’s creating an entirely new boutique industry of scrap surfing already. Scooters do not deserve this level of abuse. But they recieve it because they have yet to demand better of their riders. We are treating them as if there is an infinite supply-- there isn’t. The companies say one of their biggest problems is the supply chain bottleneck, which has led them to rushed production, leading to the recall of thousands.
A good product does not rely on its end user to operate it properly. Left to our own devices, we destroy nearly everything. A reverse midas touch. When something as dangerous as a scooter on a sidewalk going 20mph, silent but deadly, rolls into town, why rely on people to treat them properly or lawmakers to regulate them smartly? If there’s one thing we know from recent times to be true, it’s that people do not act in the people’s best interest. Regulators are either at a loss of how to manage them. If they do have a workable plan, it’s tough to pass.
If people do not adhere to basic decency and a code of conduct, we must code the conduct into the platform. The recent coverage from the MIT company claims to be doing these things, but they are not available now, and we needed something better many yesterdays ago.
We’re a country divided, at the crossroads, on many levels, and if we want change, it won’t come from companies or capitol hill. It will come from individuals, but even the most well-intentioned cannot be held accountable for behaving in the public's best interest, so it is up to the creators. A consumer good built within a framework that minimizes margin of error, minimizes reliance on infrastructure and management. Our resources are strained, responsibility is spread thin.
If the mayor were to fold to the whims of birds wishes, capitulate to capitalistic, growth above all else, it will not be long until the error of his ways affect everyone.
Scooters are inherently good, and scooter sharing has down a fantastic job by convincing many people that they can be helpful to cities. Sharing models is a system that is not sustainable for a product like scooters, being treated disposability and don’t demand the respect of quality product that an individual is responsible for.
As it stands now, if the mayor conceded to Birds wishes to expand with impunity, it will further exacerbate an already contentious, chaotic situation.
Regulating scooters is just kicking the can down the road
Regulating scooter behavior must come from within the product, not from policies or the people. It’s easier to code conduct into software than to get people to follow a code of conduct.
How products can regulate rider behavior:
Requisite multiple choice exam and video before riding.
Have helmet clip secured or sensor inside helmet recognizing that it is being used, and has a secure clip so it is always attached to scooter. Even if you do find one of those rare, functional, charged, available Birds, they don’t have a helmet.
Limit speed based on location. Any bike route can be 15mph, pedestrian routes limited to 10mph if rider does go on sidewalk, it is no more than a healthy running pace
Scooter profile more svelte, so they do not take up as much width and enhance maneuverability
Dual brakes for increased speed control
Phone mounting required