April 21, 2018

"The problem is that cities have been shocked to discover that thousands of electric scooters have been dropped onto their sidewalks seemingly overnight."

"Often, the companies ignored all the usual avenues of getting city approval to set up shop. And since the scooters are dockless, riders can just grab one, go a few blocks and leave it wherever they want, causing a commotion on sidewalks and scenes of scooters strewn across wheelchair ramps and in doorways. So officials in cities like San Francisco and Santa Monica, Calif., have been sending cease-and-desist notices and holding emergency meetings. Some even filed charges against the scooter companies. 'They just appeared,' said Mohammed Nuru, director of the San Francisco Public Works, which has been confiscating the scooters. 'I don’t know who comes up with these ideas or where these people come from.'"

From "Electric Scooters Are Causing Havoc. This Man Is Shrugging It Off" in the NYT. "This man" is Travis VanderZanden, the CEO of the electric scooter company Bird Rides.

We saw lots of Bird Rides scooters in Austin, Texas when we were there last week. It made me feel sorry for B-Cycles, which require a docking station to secure the bikes and human muscle power to make them go. Because the scooters are electrically powered, they are essentially self-locking. To make them go, you use your phone app.

41 comments:

rcocean said...

I've almost been run over by scooters in Paris and Rome. They drive on the sidewalk. Hopefully, the US ones are better behaved.

langford peel said...

I thought President Trump pardoned the Scooter?

Ann Althouse said...

"I've almost been run over by scooters in Paris and Rome."

We're not talking about motor scooters but electric scooters that you stand on, that are like the children's vehicle that you make go by using one foot.

Ann Althouse said...

"I thought President Trump pardoned the Scooter?"

I wish I'd thought about him before I created a "scooters" tag and embarked on applying it retroactively. I found maybe 2 other posts about actual scooters and the rest were about Scooter Libby (plus at least one about Scott Walker, also nicknamed Scooter, but only by his antagonists, and a few about motor scooters).

Ann Althouse said...

I found it pretty ridiculous to have electric scooters on the sidewalk. The people using them are young adults and I just don't trust them to be careful enough. Do they really remember how to balance on a scooter. There is a hand brake, but that can cause you to stop abruptly and you could fall over onto somebody.

Jack Wayne said...

Collect them as trash and send them to the landfill. Problem solved. But WTH, let’s have dozens of meetings and promulgate a “solution”.

exiledonmainstreet said...

What's next? I expect to see grown men and women coasting down city street in electric Radio Flyer red wagons soon. More practical than scooters, since there is room for your briefcase, purse, backpack, Hello Kitty lunchbox, etc.

Michael K said...

Hilarious that left wing politicians are befuddled by innovation.

The scooters sound like a good idea but running them on sidewalks might be dodgy.

Maybe bike lanes. Don't leftists love bike lanes ?

Phil 3:14 said...

Saw this in San Diego. During one walk had to move one of the scooters off the sidewalk for grandchild’s stroller

FYI, the bike companies are losing the docking stations. Limebike is one example.

Etienne said...
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LYNNDH said...

Dem's don't like change or progress I guess. Or Capitalism.

Rob said...

Shorter version of Ann's last comment: "Get off of my lawn!"

Owen said...

Electric scooter on sidewalk? Hits pedestrian? Tort city. How many causes of action? Great law school exam.

Zach said...

You have to admit it's a pretty obnoxious business model. Just leave the scooters wherever you feel like, no big deal!

The combination of normal lack of foresight with huge investor dollars and a perceived need to grow at huge rates to crowd out competitors can make these startups much more annoying than a business model based on organic growth. Suddenly every irritating bug is occurring on massive scale.

Owen said...

Zach: great points. Signs of a bubble there. The lagging features of an e-bike invasion will include lots of people with brain damage, having flown off the scooter at 15-20 mph and done a face-plant. They and their estates will be all over the startups for defective design, failure to warn, attractive nuisance (what about underage users? "Junior swiped my phone and now he's in a coma!").

Crazy.

BJM said...

SF could better spend their money getting human feces and needles off the streets.

Ralph L said...

Young people should quit wearing 4 inch platform shoes and walk before they get fat.

The Cracker Emcee Rampant said...

Any successful business model requires serious consideration of human nature. Not happening here.

loudogblog said...

It seems to me that these scooters are being used in areas where it would probably be better to walk. Obviously, some people need assistance moving down the sidewalk. So they have electric wheelchairs or mobility scooters. But zipping down the sidewalk at 15 MPH in an urban area can be dangerous. It's also funny how people say that they want to be more "environmentally friendly," but they keep demanding more and more gadgets to do things for them. Where do they think that these gadgets come from, where do they think that they get their power from and what do they think happens to these gadgets when they're discarded?

mccullough said...

Good idea by the company. They read the Uber and Lyft playbook. Ignore any city/town ordinances/rules and ignore the mayors and city councils at first. Just build up your brand with the city dwellers. Once you’ve got enough of them, then you deal with the cuties and tell them what you want and then pay off the “leaders.”

The old way was to bribe them over time and lobby them. But that gets you nowhere. You need customers first not permission to try and build tour customer base.

Politicians are greedy and lazy. Give them the back of the hand a few times and then hand them some ice for the swelling and stick some money in their pocket. Don’t approach them on a bent knee. It costs too much and takes too long.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

What about walking?

San Francisco does a few things right and one of them is their public transportation system. Street Cars, Buses, Cable Cars and you can get just about anywhere you want to go. Once you are close enough WALK. If you are unable to walk, take a taxi or Uber or something.

Stop cluttering up the area. It is already bad enough with the homeless crapping and pissing everywhere. No you have yuppies and hipsters trashing the streets.

alan markus said...

The filling station/convenience store near my office was frequented by middle school kids after school. They would drop their bikes in front of the door and in the area between one of the pumps and the door. And back in those days there was no pay at the pump option. One afternoon the only available pump was that spot - I pulled in, pumped my gas, went in to pay and stepped over bikes on the way in and out. When I left 2 bikes were laying by the right front of my car. I didn't care - I drove out anyway. Just then the two girls came out, and their eyes were wide as saucers. As I was clipping the front tire on one of the bikes, it started to come up - I could see the handlebars in line with the top of my hood. Mean maybe, but it seemed like whatever it cost to get a new wheel for the bike was a good education for the kids as the problem subsided after that. I still wonder how the girl explained to her dad what happened.

Caldwell Titcomb IV said...

The pictures illustrating the "havoc" and "commotion" were pretty cool.

Electric Scooters Are Causing Havoc.

Scooters don't cause havoc, scooter riders cause havoc.

chuck said...

Bunch of bikes suddenly showed up here, hogging the bike racks at the stores. I am not happy. OTOH, I'll bet scooters have parts worth collecting and reselling.

JAORE said...

Laying around at night you say.

Bet some bright kid can find a way to get rid of the "unlock by cell phone" feature, install a switch and disable any GPS tracker. Paint them or otherwise change any obvious tie to the original company. Now he has a start up, underground company selling electric scooters and away he rolls.

Of course the idea above of strip and sell parts has merit too.

Ann Althouse said...

"FYI, the bike companies are losing the docking stations. Limebike is one example."

I read about that method being used in China and becoming a disaster.

JAORE said...

Oh yeah. It doesn't really matter to me. But someone just HAS to do something about the lack of POC at that meeting.

Or does white privilege include the right to roll?

Oh yeah, two:
Good call, Rob.
Hey, kid, stay off my sidewalk. You might fall over and land on a used hypo needle or crush one of the homeless.

tcrosse said...

Of course the idea above of strip and sell parts has merit too.

There has to be a market for the batteries.

mccullough said...

Alan Markus,

You gave those kids a valuable lesson. When parents fail, for whatever reason, on teaching their kids basic respect and manners (or kids blow off their parents) then I, too, try to impart to lads and lasses the value of civilization in a way that they remember.

Usually there is a dumpster nearby the gas station/convenience store. I just pick up the bikes, skateboards and scooters and throw them in there. When they come out screaming I say their bike must have been trash because it was just dumped in front where people and cars are trying to get through. If they want it back, go into the dumpster and get it.

Ralph L said...

Gaia forbid the people running the store tell them where to put them.

Ralph L said...
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gilbar said...

if you leave something you own laying on the sidewalk; how is that NOT littering?
What does the city do with litter? they throw it away, and charge the owner?
(seriously, try leaving a car or a couch on the sidewalk, and see what happens)

This CEO, is 'shrugging it off', when
A) his scooters get towed away
B) his company gets a ticket (PLUS the cost of the tow)
C) HE gets a contempt of court violation for failure to pay the tickets
(3 days in jail/each violation * 100,000 violations = ~ 900 YEARS if sequential)

i suspect he'd stop pretty soon; actually, he'd start to organize his customers pretty soon... who would win?

Jeff said...

But there is at least one huge upside:

“Somebody whizzing along at 15 miles an hour, that’s a symbol of entitlement and arrogance,” said Fran Taylor, a retired medical reporter. She called the scooters “a plot of the young people to kill off all us old farts so they can have our rent-controlled apartments.”

gilbar said...

so, they're paying their people "$5 to $20" a BIKE! to pick them up and charge them.
$1/ride + $.10/minute = ~ $2 per 10 minute ride

SO!
if the scooters average 5 to 10 rides per day... EACH,
then the fees will just cover the costs of the pickup crews

"In Santa Monica, the city attorney’s office filed a nine-count misdemeanor criminal complaint against Bird and Mr. VanderZanden last year for operating a commercial scooter rental business without a mobile vending business license and for failing to comply with citations. The company pleaded no contest and paid a settlement of $300,000. "


there is (apparently) $250,MILLION in startup money.
I predict, that this will go Great for mister VanDerDoper while they burn through the $250,000,000

Mister VsnDerDoper did say that society would have to adapt to his scooters, "just like it did to the horseless carriage" ....
Does anyone know if Santa Monica has Free Parking? I'll bet NO

Ken B said...

Piles of human shit on the sidewalk are fine but mopeds are verboten.

mccullough said...

I don’t see how the company is responsible for renters being careless with where they put the scooters.

Entitled young people are the customers of the company, not their creation. Blame the young people. Let’s bring back Individual Responsibility. The company can turn over data on the last user and the virus can fine that person. And if that person doesn’t pay the fine, then the city can arrest the person unless they aren’t a white guy. Non white guys can be careless. They can retreat into their vast carelessness.

tcrosse said...

Presumably you have to clean up your dog's shit on the sidewalk, but not your own.

Ken B said...

Tcrosse: not if your dog is undocumented. Then he may shit where he wishes.

Henry said...

If the scooters kill off the segways, I'll call it a win. Segways are evil. Driven by gormless erratics, they are slow, wide, sidewalk bikelane clogging machines.

retail lawyer said...

I listened to the chief legal officer and government relations manager for one of these companies on the San Francisco NPR affiliate this week. He was glib and prepared and admitted some growing pains, like people riding them on sidewalks or riding without helmets (required in California - who knew?) and parking them in inconsiderate places. They can't rent helmets for hygiene reasons. And they always cooperate with local government and obey the law. Well, except for sometimes. He sounded just like a politician, only more intelligent.
Then I ride my bike to the train station from work, right past the Red's Java House pictured in the article. A Giants game was getting out, so everything was very crowded. And teen agers were riding the scooters in packs down crowded sidewalks yelling at pedestrians to get out of the way. I have never seen anyone using one of these while wearing a helmet. I haven't crashed into one yet, but probably I will eventually.
The train is normally standing room only, but it is much worse when a game gets out. The politicians are so proud that the ballpark is along a transportation corridor. The corridor is there anyway, but the train is something out of the 3rd World. I'm on the train and a drunken asshole gets arrested in my car. Some other drunken assholes started yelling at the arresting officers, even though they were arresting a White person. Then some commuters started yelling at the anti-police faction. I felt like Vegetable Lasagna on the flight trapped next to Putty and Elaine having a fight.
Living the dream here in San Francisco!

FIDO said...

How do they recharge these things? The logistics are a nightmare.