Save Scooters in Nashville: solutions exist, an outright ban is premature

Save Scooters in Nashville: solutions exist, an outright ban is premature

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Steve Venick started this petition to Mayor David Briley and

THE PROBLEM WITH SCOOTERS:

Since electric scooters arrived in Nashville in May 2018, complaints about them have been growing. On May 19th, Brady Gaulke died from injuries he sustained as a result of a horrific accident with an SUV while riding a scooter. He was 26 years-old. His death is a tragedy and my condolences go out to his family, friends, and loved-ones.

In addition to safety concerns, there are other problems with scooters:

  • Improperly parked scooters clutter and sometimes even block sidewalks, which creates not only an eye-sore and an inconvenience to pedestrians, but can be dangerous to those who are physically disabled (e.g. blind or in a wheelchair).
  • Scooter riders sometimes do not obey traffic laws, creating a roadway hazard for others and sometimes injuring themselves.
  • Scooter riders often do not wear helmets.

Now Mayor Briley has issued an ultimatum to scooter companies: address safety concerns and ensure scooters are being used responsibly within 30 days or face an outright ban.

THE BENEFITS OF SCOOTERS:

Despite these problems, scooters serve an important transportation need in Nashville and have many benefits:

  • Scooters are a convenient and affordable mode of transportation, and provide a much-needed alternative to public transportation.
  • Scooters reduce congestion from Uber and Lyft cars by providing an alternative for relatively short trips.
  • Scooters provide a solution to "the last mile" transportation problem. Whether we take a bus or drive (and then park), usually there's a bit of a walk (i.e. "the last mile) involved at some point. Scooters provide an easy, convenient, and relatively quick way to get through this "last mile."
  • Scooter companies create jobs and extra income opportunities (via "charging" freelance work) for Nashville residents.

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS TO SCOOTER PROBLEMS:

There are many potential solutions to the problems with scooters that have yet to be explored.

Scooter companies could:

  • Provide funding to the Metro Police Department or the Parking Patrol division of Public Works in order to finance dedicated scooter enforcement personnel.
  • Use GPS to require users to park scooters in one of the 12 designated "corrals" established by Metro Public Works within the "restricted parking zone" downtown and automatically fine those who do not.
  • Establish more "restricted parking zones"in other high-traffic areas. Scooter companies could help to finance this.
  • Enforce responsible parking of scooters through their apps by adopting the following strategies already in use by Lime and Spin:
    1. To end a trip, Lime requires users to take a picture of where they have parked their scooter to make sure it is properly parked. Lime, and all scooter companies, could review these photos and fine users who park improperly. 
    2. Spin allows riders to rate how a scooter was parked when they find it. A one thumbs-down rating prompts a notification to the previous rider to review the parking rules, three thumbs-down ratings requires a scooter parking rules review, and five thumbs-down ratings suspends the user from the app.
  • Attach helmets to scooters that are secured with a cable of some kind so they cannot be stolen and are always available for use by riders. These helmets could even be equipped with a light or reflective panel to make scooter riders more visible at night.
  • Post an "important safety & parking information" notice on the handlebars of each scooter to ensure that all riders are aware of the rules (this would be in addition to similar info provided through the app).

Scooter riders could:

  • Follow the rules of the road, obey traffic laws, and avoid riding on sidewalks.
  • Park responsibly.
  • Wear a helmet.

Metro government could:

  • Establish designated "scooter parking/docking zones" in high-traffic areas, as mentioned above.
  • Continue improving and expanding bike lanes throughout the city.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Electric scooters are an innovative and new mode of transportation, and all innovation has growing pains. Scooters are no more inherently dangerous than bicycles or cars, and we would never consider banning either of these from our city, despite the numerous injuries and fatalities that happen every year. Additionally, given Nashville's inability to provide quality public transportation to its residents, city leaders should think carefully before banning scooters.

To be sure, a lot more can be done to improve scooter safety and address the scooter parking problem, but there are numerous potential solutions, as shown above, and banning them entirely is premature.

The "Nashville Scooter Experiment" is still a work-in-progress and we shouldn't give up on it so easily.

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