"The life of a repo man is always intense."
July 25, 2019 11:07 AM   Subscribe

 
This is what disrupting an industry looks like.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:13 AM on July 25, 2019 [29 favorites]


I saw these things littering the sidewalks all over DC this Spring; I'm so glad that they aren't in my city.
posted by octothorpe at 11:23 AM on July 25, 2019


Ever since these companies started dumping scooters all over the sidewalk near my office (which is in fact near DC) I've struggled to figure out what differentiates them from expensive litter. So I love this.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:24 AM on July 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


The TL;DR; is a couple of dudes that rent stuff to tourists are very sad that someone else is undercutting them in renting stuff to tourists. Said couple of sad dudes are about to find out what happens when a 10 figure industry sics their lawyers onto them. Probably not enough money in renting out terrible bicycles on the boardwalk to be able to afford a defense.
posted by sideshow at 11:24 AM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


Sure hope the repo guys have lawyered up properly - how are they not taking something that's not theirs and demanding money to hand it back?
posted by each day we work at 11:26 AM on July 25, 2019


The scooters are disrupting the sidewalk, now the tow truck dudes are disrupting the scooters. Circle of life.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:26 AM on July 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


Nah. The TL;DR is that a bunch of rich start-up jerks started littering the streets with scooters that block sidewalks and encourage reckless riding, and two dudes who ran a local responsible bike lending service are striking back against the "disruptors"
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:27 AM on July 25, 2019 [61 favorites]


Also, as the article points out, with the bounties on finding lost scooters being what they are, being known as the dudes holding hundreds of these things under questionable authority is one of the best ways to get violently robbed. Cops aren't going to be super motivated to investigate the seizure of what is already stolen property.
posted by sideshow at 11:29 AM on July 25, 2019


Sure hope the repo guys have lawyered up properly - how are they not taking something that's not theirs and demanding money to hand it back?


They're impounding vehicles that have been left on private property, the same as if they would tow illegally parked cars.
posted by octothorpe at 11:30 AM on July 25, 2019 [71 favorites]


Peak capitalism, man. In one corner, VC-backed "disruptor" techbros who decided they'd make more money by not bothering to ask the city what the laws about scooters were, until someone called them on their bullshit and started stealing their stuff. In the other corner, a towing company with a very liberal interpretation of traffic and parking code. It's a shame they can't both be driven into the sea.
Then came the chargers, or the freelance contractors who work in the cutthroat industry of charging scooters with low batteries. (Lime calls its contractors “juicers, while Bird calls them “hunters”).
Oh come the fuck ON, writers of this horrible timeline, we're already close enough to a William Gibson crapsack world, thankyouverymuch.
posted by Mayor West at 11:30 AM on July 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


how are they not taking something that's not theirs and demanding money to hand it back?

They're taking them off of properties that don't want them there, just like car towing companies do.
posted by Etrigan at 11:30 AM on July 25, 2019 [23 favorites]


Sounds fair. I like scooters, but the infrastructure is not built for them and people are terrible. If we're going to have them we need regulations and incentives that direct people away from being terrible.

If the companies lose money when customers leave scooters in inappropriate places, maybe they will start banning customers who leave scooters in inappropriate places.

I don't particularly care that some of the people involved see scooters as competition. Doing the same thing to tourist bikes when they block wheelchair lifts is also fair, but it seems like tourist bikes are not nearly as much of a problem.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:30 AM on July 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


I fail to see how impounding scooters that are improperly parked is any different from impounding cars that do the same, in terms of legality.
posted by Aleyn at 11:31 AM on July 25, 2019 [15 favorites]


Sure hope the repo guys have lawyered up properly - how are they not taking something that's not theirs and demanding money to hand it back?

They're doing the same thing towing companies do when you park on private property without permission of the property owner. Your car gets towed, you pay a fee to get it back. Assuming you follow the laws regarding how such things transpire, it is not considered theft.

The gray area here is that laws regarding scooters are non-existent. The guys towing (as it were) scooters consider them vehicles illegally parked on private property and subject to towing and impounding, with all the associated fees. It's safe to assume the scooter companies will have a very different legal interpretation.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 11:34 AM on July 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


Why do these dumb scooters not have an autonomous mode that allows them to crawl back to the nearest designated collection point? USE YOUR TECH, DISRUPTORS. Jesus, the answers are so easy. Do not tell me some bright spark can't figure a way to make them balance and self-drive similar to an autonomous segway. Or they have little training wheels that pop down in autonomous mode. Crawl back at 1 MPH, so the anti-collision systems don't need to be too robust or sophisticated.

Leave it where you want and it crawls back to the nearest collection point. Plus it would be awesome to live in a city with herds of autonomous scooters travelling in flocks to central locations.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:35 AM on July 25, 2019 [30 favorites]


The gray area here is that laws regarding scooters are non-existent.

That sounds like the fault of cities who didn't set laws in place before allowing the scooters at all.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:37 AM on July 25, 2019


Strange that despite having hundreds of scooters from at least four different companies around here (which I find quite useful, tyvm) that I have yet to ever see one substantially blocking a sidewalk or otherwise causing any problem except perhaps annoying the sort of people who can't stand that anything they personally find out of place might be within their view.

And yes, I am considering people using wheelchairs or other assistive devices when I make that assessment.
posted by wierdo at 11:39 AM on July 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


I've never seen an air freshener on a scooter, though.
posted by chavenet at 11:40 AM on July 25, 2019 [12 favorites]


the sudden omnipresence of these scooters is like something out of Doctor Who.

some alien scheme that probably also involves vape pens.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:40 AM on July 25, 2019 [20 favorites]


For once I am grateful that the potholes here in New Orleans are just like Morbo's children - "belligerent and numerous." I can't imagine renting a scooter to anyone in good faith, knowing that they're likely to take a dive within the first five blocks. We do have Blue Bikes and the tourists use those like crazy but they're never discarded haphazardly in sufficient quantities to make this kind of repo job necessary.
posted by komara at 11:41 AM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


I discovered that I was not really good at college,” Heinkel says. “I was good at the job of taking stuff from people in the middle of the night or during the day.

cackling
posted by poffin boffin at 11:42 AM on July 25, 2019 [36 favorites]


Also, if one of the scumbag tow operators tried that here they'd be guilty of theft since scooters are not motor vehicles (or boats) and thus are not covered by the usual impound laws, but are considered abandoned property, which is handled in an entirely different way.
posted by wierdo at 11:42 AM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I have yet to ever see one substantially blocking a sidewalk or otherwise causing any problem

Well, I have seen multiple scooters littering sidewalks and I've almost been run over by people on these scooters so I suppose now we have conflicting anecdotes.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:43 AM on July 25, 2019 [52 favorites]


when the revolution comes, piles of e-scooters will be used to build the barricades
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:46 AM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]




These scooter businesses exist entirely within the gaps of the law. The biggest laugh is that most cities have a law on the books controlling scooter operators. Helmets are often required by law, but could you imagine any city actually enforcing that? In some place scooters should be on the sidewalk; in others being on the sidewalk is strictly forbidden. Often there's an age minimum, and sometimes there's even a requirement for a license to ride a motorized scooter.

The scooter companies ignore all this. It's not their problem if their customers are all breaking the law when they ride their scooters. What's interesting is apparently it is now their problem if customers are breaking the law while parking the scooter. Tow companies tend to be sleazy as fuck, and these guys don't seem much better. But to to the extent they're operating in the law they're ahead of the scooter companies.
posted by Nelson at 11:46 AM on July 25, 2019 [16 favorites]


Also, if one of the scumbag tow operators
wierdo

"scumbag tow operators"? These guys are removing the litter these private companies are leaving in public spaces and on other people's private property without permission. Your experience with these things seems to be very different than pretty much everyone else's. Do you work for one of these scooter companies or something?
posted by Sangermaine at 11:46 AM on July 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


Not sure what jurisdictions all you "it's just like towing cars, geeze" commenters are responding from, but here in California you can't just drive around and tow vehicles at will, even those on private property.

Here's some specific rules from the San Diego Attorney about towing from private property.

Do these dudes have written documentation they waited an hour? Did they send the owners of the scooters this documentation? Did they get all the required documentation from every single property owner?

And, that's assuming their defense of "scooters are just like cars, man!" even flies in court. That could get shot down and now they are just dudes with hundreds of counts of theft and extortion.
posted by sideshow at 11:47 AM on July 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


I have yet to ever see one substantially blocking a sidewalk or otherwise causing any problem

I see them blocking the sidewalk more often than not, and occasionally parked in such a way that it's obvious that whoever rode it had zero concern about other people getting past, like just didn't think about it any more than a two year old would. The riders and the companies both seem to think that the scooters aren't their problem, while aggressively making them everyone else's problem. I hope a repo team opens up for these things in my city.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:49 AM on July 25, 2019 [29 favorites]


That sounds like the fault of cities who didn't set laws in place before allowing the scooters at all.

Ah, but that's the trick of these "disrupting" businesses: they don't ask to be allowed to operate somewhere, they just show up and let the place deal with the consequences while doing everything they can to ignore or change local laws.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:49 AM on July 25, 2019 [32 favorites]


Lime Bikes were that way when they first came around, but the scooter companies seem to be making it very clear what is expected of users in that respect, to the point of requiring that the user take a photo of the scooter and its surroundings when closing out the rental.

It amuses me to no end that people complain about things like this that promote alternative forms of transportation over yet more cars, parking for which takes up nearly half of most US cities. I'd much rather have a few scooters looking out of place than have to walk twice as far because of all the damned parking for cars. If it's really that big of a deal to you, require that developers include more parking for bicycles, scooters, and the like.
posted by wierdo at 11:51 AM on July 25, 2019 [16 favorites]


The more you ride, the less intelligent you are.
posted by ZipRibbons at 11:52 AM on July 25, 2019 [12 favorites]


And no, I don't work for them. I do use them on occasion and, as stated earlier, am happy with anything that encourages people to stop driving and riding in cars in the very congested part of the city I live in.
posted by wierdo at 11:53 AM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


> when the revolution comes, piles of e-scooters will be used to build the barricades

look i'm all for diversity of tactics or whatever but it's a waste to use e-scooters to build barricades. the revolution needs light cavalry, and those suckers are perfect for the role.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:53 AM on July 25, 2019 [31 favorites]


> The more you ride, the less intelligent you are.
posted by ZipRibbons at 11:52 AM on July 25 [+] [!]


seems correct. i ride 'em all the time and i am a blithering idiot.

they're so dangerous but also so, so fun...
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:54 AM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


We just got a bunch of the scooters here in Salem last week. I sort of want to try one, but I have a vacation coming up that would not mesh well with a head injury after I plow at full speed into a dumpster or something.

We also have the bikes and they are mostly okay. The bonuses of watching a bunch of drunk college kids who have not ridden a bike since middle school wobble down the road in the club outfits is pretty much offset by the boneyard of bikes that litter the sidewalk the next morning. The contractors that gather up the bikes learn the common discard locations after a few weeks, so they've been good at gathering them up on Sundays of late.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:55 AM on July 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


I wonder if there's been any research into the use cases for these scooters, because to me they seem like an alternative to walking, not driving.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:59 AM on July 25, 2019 [41 favorites]


Strange that despite having hundreds of scooters from at least four different companies around here (which I find quite useful, tyvm) that I have yet to ever see one substantially blocking a sidewalk or otherwise causing any problem except perhaps annoying the sort of people who can't stand that anything they personally find out of place might be within their view.

And yes, I am considering people using wheelchairs or other assistive devices when I make that assessment.


I see them blocking the sidewalk routinely when they fall over, or when they're placed in very specific sidewalks. Maybe it's different in different cities, but scooters routinely block sidewalks, and I think people who value using scooters just overlook that because they value using scooters.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:59 AM on July 25, 2019 [22 favorites]


This is kinda like when the assholes at Uber decided to disrupt the assholes in the taxi industry. It's so very hard to decide which assholes to hate more.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:01 PM on July 25, 2019 [15 favorites]


And a federal lawsuit that a disability rights group filed against Bird, Lime, Razor, and the City of San Diego in January says that scooters are being left in front of wheelchair ramps, curbs, and crosswalks. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say the scooters are a menace.

“I’ve almost been knocked over several times,” Alex Montoya, a San Diego-based motivational speaker who wears three prosthetic limbs, tells me.


It's kind of glossed over in the article, but this is my biggest problem with these goddam scooters: their clientele turn into selfish assholes when they board them, apparently. They endanger the entire walking general public when they ride on sidewalks, and then they park them in inconsiderate ways that often inconvenience the disabled.

So, screw them, and the people that ride them.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:04 PM on July 25, 2019 [16 favorites]


Work sent me to Stockholm a few months ago, and I got to try this out European Style. It was pretty great. Instead of taking the subway 4 stops, or walking for ~40 minutes, we were able to scoot in about 10 minutes. It was fun and terrifying (no helmets on the streets) and quick and easy.

I didn't get the sense that people hated them, but they were also usually clustered nicely somewhere on the side of the pretty large sidewalk. The app also had zones that you were, and were not, allowed to drop them off in.

Anyways, this is a longwinded way of saying, if people can not be assholes, it seems like a good idea.
posted by Phredward at 12:05 PM on July 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


I'd much rather have a few scooters looking out of place

This weirdly minimizes some of the issues raised in the article, like scooters blocking driveway access and wheelchair ramps. I mean, I wouldn't call a situation where a disability rights group sues scooter companies for blocking access to necessary infrastructure "a few scooters looking out of place."
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:11 PM on July 25, 2019 [40 favorites]


It amuses me to no end that people complain about things like this that promote alternative forms of transportation over yet more cars, parking for which takes up nearly half of most US cities. I'd much rather have a few scooters looking out of place than have to walk twice as far because of all the damned parking for cars. If it's really that big of a deal to you, require that developers include more parking for bicycles, scooters, and the like.

Call me a crazy dreamer, but perhaps there are other alternatives to car culture and infrastructure besides private VC-backed billion-dollar scooter companies that revel in flouting the law for their own profit.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:14 PM on July 25, 2019 [54 favorites]


And a federal lawsuit that a disability rights group filed against Bird, Lime, Razor, and the City of San Diego in January says that scooters are being left in front of wheelchair ramps, curbs, and crosswalks. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say the scooters are a menace.

Yeah, blind people totally love tripping over these.
posted by Melismata at 12:16 PM on July 25, 2019 [21 favorites]


I saw these things littering the sidewalks all over DC this Spring

We've been ground zero for a lot of this shit. However annoying I find the scooters, though, car and truck traffic is the main reason these things are dangerous. They should probably just ban private motor vehicle traffic in the touristy part of the District.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:16 PM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


I wonder if there's been any research into the use cases for these scooters, because to me they seem like an alternative to walking, not driving.

Bro... are you on a bird scooter on the highway?
posted by peeedro at 12:19 PM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


In Warsaw the main complaints are not from wheelchairs, but blind people who walk into them lying in the middle of a sidewalk. And all the pedestrians the scooters knock into, since by law they're pedestrians as well and not allowed on the road or bike paths.

This led to the city straight up confiscating rental scooters as litter. To get them back, the companies have to pay a fee and most of all provide legal ownership documentation and all paperwork to prove they're legally running an EU-based scooter rental. Which, funnily enough, they have problems with - last I heard in May, the city had over 500 scooters in their warehouse. It did force the scooter companies to introduce a lot more measures to make sure people don't leave the scooters where they are liable to be confiscated.

(Yay things: Warsaw has a city app that you can use to report all sorts of stuff to city services, including scooters you trip over.)
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:19 PM on July 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


I like scooters conceptually, as anything that gets people out of cars is probably a good thing, and there are lots of situations where a bike isn't going to cut it (else people would already be riding bikes) and a scooter might. The more people who are using non-car transportation solutions, the more people we'll have interested in stuff like protected cycleways (which can also be scooterways, I mean maybe they're not the ideal mode to share with, but better than a 6,000-pound Lexus Death Machine*).

But the "dockless" concept is... not cool. If scooter companies want to stick around, they need to do the fucking work and figure out where the scooters are going to live and be parked, and where they are not going to live and be parked, and ensure that they get left in the former places and not in the latter. This is going to involve negotiation with municipalities and probably going out and painting boxes on the sidewalk at minimum, which I'm sure the sort of startup-bros who run these companies are loath to do. So fuck them for not trying.

I'm honestly surprised people have been as tolerant of these things lying around as they have been. Tossing them in rivers and stuff is infantile and wasteful, but you don't have to be an electrical engineer to figure out where the GPS receiver chip and cellular modem is on them, and five seconds with a battery-operated drill and a 1/8" bit will toast any ability for the thing to phone home, and away you go. I'm actually surprised there aren't whole back-alley chopshops rewiring the things to manual operation and selling them at half price—retail on the comparable "civilian" model from Xiaomi is $400 (plus $70 for the Particle Electron board used by Bird scooters!), so for $200 you'd sell them like hotcakes, even if they were covered in black electrical tape over the old owners' logo (that's gotta get you some sort of punk street cred, right? it would have in my youth if they'd been around). And I wouldn't be really all that sad if that ended up happening at scale. Having some tech-bros effectively subsidize personal electric scooter ownership by thousands of people might be the best possible outcome of the crazy dockless scooter arms race that's going on right now. And when people own their own scooters, they'll take better care of them and not leave the stupid things sitting around as a tripping hazard on the sidewalk, just like people who own their own bikes generally don't.

* Lexus Death Machine is a pretty good band name, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:19 PM on July 25, 2019 [39 favorites]


Let me just say: that illustration is a thing of beauty.
posted by koeselitz at 12:20 PM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


> Lime Bikes were that way when they first came around, but the scooter companies seem to be making it very clear what is expected of users in that respect, to the point of requiring that the user take a photo of the scooter and its surroundings when closing out the rental.

I'm 99% certain that the scooter companies don't actually care where you drop the scooter, they only want the photo for its GPS data as proof that you left it where you said you did.
posted by ardgedee at 12:21 PM on July 25, 2019


And a federal lawsuit that a disability rights group filed against Bird, Lime, Razor, and the City of San Diego in January says that scooters are being left in front of wheelchair ramps, curbs, and crosswalks. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say the scooters are a menace.

Oh god, yes. They are a menace, and the thing about being able to "leave them anywhere" is that people disproportionately think that access points are a convenient place to scatter the damn things. They're frequently seen lying across sidewalks here in Austin, which means that if you're (say) in a wheelchair without the power to lift one, your mobility has just gone to shit. Turns out their users don't really have an incentive to line them up and put them neatly away when the company sells them so hard on "leave it anywhere!!!"

My university has opted to deal with it by charging the companies themselves with heavy fines for any scooters left outside designated parking areas, which they can pass on to the rider who left the scooter somewhere. But because the damn things lock up when you're done your ride, they're a pain and a half to wheel to those designated areas once you've turned on the power, and if you don't ride them right up to that space it's actively difficult to carry them without paying for them. I bark my shins all to hell on the damn things on the infrequent occasion I use them. (And honestly, when I do use them, it's mostly about thoughtfully practicing to ride them--if I got good at them, I'd probably buy my own for my own use and keep it in my office in between trips.) I don't use them much, though, because my lower-middle-class East Austin neighborhood isn't supported, and I mostly want one to ride between home and my 1.5mile away bus stop.

But ADA accessibility tends to be honored only insofar as it's actively prosecuted, and it's not a huge priority for cities to tackle day to day--so what do you do? Sue those fuckers, that's what I think. Those companies should have to be responsible for making their users put the scooters somewhere where they don't interfere with other people's access everywhere, not just on campus.
posted by sciatrix at 12:22 PM on July 25, 2019 [21 favorites]


komara > We do have Blue Bikes [in New Orleans] and the tourists use those like crazy but they're never discarded haphazardly in sufficient quantities to make this kind of repo job necessary.

The Blue Bikes are also kind of... legitimate? in a way Bird and Lime scooters aren't. They've got bike docks scattered around the city (though you can leave them anywhere), and those bike docks show up on the bus ticketing/scheduling app, with data on how many bikes are currently there. I haven't been paying too close attention to them as I bought my own bike when I moved back down to New Orleans and have been using that as my main transit mode. But there's accountability and a relationship with the city going on there. (Despite them being an Uber-owned company, according to the small print on their website.)

I was in downtown Atlanta the other weekend and the scooters were a mess, there were a lot of them blocking foot traffic and people zooming past pedestrians on them at close range. I counted at least three different brands on them, maybe more.

These things don't belong on the sidewalk IMHO. They belong on the street with the other wheeled vehicles - cars, bicycles, motorbikes, whatever.
posted by egypturnash at 12:22 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


This weirdly minimizes some of the issues raised in the article

Yeah, I'm weirdly minimizing a thing I specifically noted I was considering.
posted by wierdo at 12:23 PM on July 25, 2019


I haven't used them, but they (and rental electric bicycles) are popular here. I like them a lot if they help keep cars off the road. However, the infrastructure needs to be fixed:
  • Every business should be required to have a certain number of places to park bicycles and scooters out front near the door, just as businesses are required to have a certain number of car parking spaces.
  • Scooters should be ridden on bicycle paths where available and they need to slow the fuck down when they're on sidewalks.
  • Cities need fewer and narrower car lanes, fewer cars, and a lot more bicycle/scooter lanes.
posted by pracowity at 12:24 PM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


What metals do they use in their batteries?

If lead, they're a potential toxic waste disaster; if lithium, aren't we a little short of that?
posted by jamjam at 12:26 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


(also as a person whose primary mode of transport is cycling I don't think I would have a problem sharing bike trails with scooters - they're built for wheeled vehicles that move around 15-20mph. But I don't ride on the @#$% sidewalk and neither should scooters. Take a lane in the road.)
posted by egypturnash at 12:28 PM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I'm weirdly minimizing a thing I specifically noted I was considering.

Correct.

What metals do they use in their batteries?

And do they have other uses? Are there other parts that have uses? I'm just wondering if any of this abandoned property can be repurposed.
posted by avalonian at 12:30 PM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I'm weirdly minimizing a thing I specifically noted I was considering.

Dude, you said that you haven't personally noticed them causing problems for people with mobility or vision impairments in the middle of a comment dismissing the complaints of a whole bunch of other people. Forgive me if I don't necessarily trust the assessment of able-bodied people about what is or isn't a barrier to accessibility (because, frankly, able-bodied people are notoriously bad about that, judging from experiences I've had making sure that places are accessible for friends in canes and crutches and wheelchairs). Besides, your experience ain't universal and neither is your city, and you're really acting as if it is.
posted by sciatrix at 12:34 PM on July 25, 2019 [30 favorites]


If your business model makes tow operators the heroes, you have fucked up on a truly unprecedented cosmic scale.
posted by Naberius at 12:37 PM on July 25, 2019 [71 favorites]


Also LOL they were only in your city three weeks. Three weeks! They've been in mine for a year. You've had so much time to develop expertise with the way they're used and their potential problems though, I'm sure!
posted by sciatrix at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2019


Forgive me if I don't really feel like including a long winded explanation about why exactly it is that I care about accessibility issues and have since before the ADA even existed and am quite familiar with what is necessary in that respect in every comment I make that touches upon the subject.
posted by wierdo at 12:39 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


Also LOL, they're actually still here. Maybe check the date line before you try to tell me what's happening in the place I actually live in and walk in every day of my life.

Y'all have fun with this, I'm out.
posted by wierdo at 12:40 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


All right, fair enough at that, but you've got to admit that if they were only active in Miami for such a limited period of time, there wasn't a ton of time for people to let the novelty wear off and get lazy with the damn things. Especially as it looks like Miami responded very quickly and firmly to their presence, which Austin didn't.
posted by sciatrix at 12:41 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I wonder if there's been any research into the use cases for these scooters, because to me they seem like an alternative to walking, not driving.

There's a bunch of data on average trip distance, which seems to range from about a mile to a mile and a half depending on location. For trips of that length - technically walkable but kind of a pain in the ass - many people will choose cars or rideshares if they can.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:44 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


If scooter companies want to stick around, they need to do the fucking work and figure out where the scooters are going to live and be parked, and where they are not going to live and be parked, and ensure that they get left in the former places and not in the latter.

This. DC has been an interesting case study. Capital Bikeshare did a ton of work, followed the rules, got the assessments, and came up with a docked bicycle model that has survived to this day. Dockless bikes went through IIRC a two-year pilot program, but have now been taken off the streets - it seemed pretty clear that they weren't turning a profit and a lot of them were just being destroyed and/or stolen. Now it's just the scooters, which can't possibly be making any more money than the bikes and seemed to be just another loss leader for VC bros disrupting an industry.
The one dockless bike company that remains is the pedal-assisted "Jump" bikes, whose users weirdly exhibit most of the worst scooter-bro behavior. Except, Jump bikes have to be locked to something when you leave them, which eliminates one of the biggies.

It wouldn't have been trivial for Bird et al to actually do the research, work with the city, and come up with a docked model or a game plan for preventing these things being left in curb cuts and wheelchair ramps. But it's what should have happened, and they'll probably eventually be forced to do it anyway.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:46 PM on July 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


"Hi AAA, I'm here with a flat bed for the scooter, call # 665?...yes, I have a back lift, just gonna need that Faraday cage and an ambulance, seems the repo man forgot his rubber tipped lock-out set, sure, checking pulse now...hello..."
posted by clavdivs at 12:47 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


Oh, huh, these things. Tried using them in San Jose when I was out for a conference. They were everywhere on the sidewalks. Nobody was interested in making sure they were organized or not blocking the sidewalk.

Barely related: It was exceptionally jarring to me that it was cheaper in SJ to take a rideshare two miles than to ride a scooter the same distance.
posted by boo_radley at 12:48 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


That sounds like the fault of cities who didn't set laws in place before allowing the scooters at all.

I live in downtown Santa Monica, the birthplace of these things. Bird dumped hundreds of scooters in the neighborhood, and not only did they not speak with the city, they didn’t even get a business license. After ignoring court orders the city finally sued them to get them to comply with just the basics. The city had to spend months and months catching up before they finally came up with a pilot program.

Did Bird learn from this experience? No. In fact, “dump and make the city sue us” turned out to be their business plan. Here in Santa Monica, the city just announced they have reduced the number of Bird scooters allowed because there have been so many violations by Bird and complaints from their users.

For the life of me I don’t understand how Bird and the other scooter companies convince people that they’re just the innocent victim of haters.

(And don’t even get me started on the ableism and sheer contempt for pedestrians exhibited with many users.)

14 Months, 120 Cities, $2 Billion: There's Never Been a Company Like Bird. Is the World Ready?

Bird's modus operandi has remained remarkably consistent: Identify cities without laws proscribing e-scooters, launch a fleet of them, watch as people start scooting all over town, and then wait as city officials scramble to respond to the newfangled transport option. The price paid, as of November 2018, has been nearly half a million dollars in fines and court fees, hundreds of seized scooters, numerous cease-and-desist letters from angry government officials, and at least three lawsuits.

Reminder: Bird took advantage of this by dumping these swiftly, before cities had a chance to learn from Santa Monica.

Bird scooter firm settles legal fight with Santa Monica

In addition to having safety concerns, Santa Monica officials grew frustrated at Bird’s refusal to obtain permits.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:56 PM on July 25, 2019 [25 favorites]


People start biting each other like rats in a bucket when there isn't enough space. In this case, cars are to blame. Cars are a thousand times worse in terms of the dangers, inconvenience, and unpleasantness they cause people, but you're inured to cars and unused to scooters, so scooters are the new hate. I don't know about where you live, but fucking cars are parked all over the sidewalks where I live, and of course cars everywhere fill the air full of invisible but poisonous gases, cause heat and noise pollution, use up tons of public space, and outright squash and kill thousands and thousands of people. Adding a few silly scooters into the mix is nothing.
posted by pracowity at 12:58 PM on July 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


Yea but I can't personally throw a car in the dumpster, or back at their CEO.
posted by avalonian at 1:00 PM on July 25, 2019 [12 favorites]


Adding a few silly scooters into the mix is nothing.

Unless you're in a wheelchair or blind or otherwise mobility impaired... Like I get it, cars=evil that's what it boils down to in every thread, but a) this thread isn't about cars and b) for a lot of disabled people cars are the only way they can get around so the knee-jerk car hate on metafilter is getting more then a little ableist. I can feel like there are too many cars on the road AND think that these scooters are a problem. I, and most of your fellow mefites, contain multitudes.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:02 PM on July 25, 2019 [40 favorites]


It sounds like the companies are basically telling their riders that it's okay to be an asshole, and some of their riders are taking them up on it.
posted by clawsoon at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


In Brooklyn we don't have these scooters yet, but we do have a bunch of mopeds that just suddenly appeared one day. They seem incredibly dangerous, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to try one.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2019


I'm so glad that Toronto hasn't allowed these in yet. I swear I will throw any of them I see that aren't parked in a designated space (like the City Bikes) in the nearest dumpster or gutter.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I really like the idea of the scooters, but last time I was in a town with them it was a hot mess. They were every where and I could barely walk on the sidewalk. I can't imagine what it would be like if I had mobility challenges. I hope the scooters stay, but only if they have dedicated charging bays.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 1:06 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


The whole "if you have issues with scooters then you are beholden to car culture" line is some techno-utopian-libertarian bullshit. It is to everyone's benefit to question the motives of and push back against the misdeeds of whoever the new breed of amoral capitalists are. And people do not "bite each other like rats" in close quarters - that is just a horrible thing to say in addition to being wholly untrue.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:12 PM on July 25, 2019 [33 favorites]


You know what I'd like to have instead of cars? I'd like to have a bus system that actually gets within half a mile of my home, which comes once every 15min instead of once per hour, and which goes within an hour to my workplace (which as a college campus usually gets the best bus service in town) and maybe to a few other places nearish the university that I routinely visit. I wouldn't use a car if I could have that. I wouldn't need a scooter, either; I'd really much rather walk at that distance anyway, and besides using the scooters rather necessitates stealing them for me since my neighborhood is too poor for the companies to bother with. (Not that I've done this, but I've certainly tooled around on a few that someone else left around on the bike ride home...)

Public transit! Perhaps subsidized by the city, with reasonable costs for riders but otherwise funded in order to reduce strain on the overcrowded highways. I won't even ask for trains; buses wouldn't even need any more infrastructure to work well. Enough of them that I don't have to fuck up my entire day if I miss one, too. And you don't need to park a bus at all, and they don't inconvenience anyone except possibly car drivers. What's not to love?
posted by sciatrix at 1:18 PM on July 25, 2019 [28 favorites]


I have yet to ever see one substantially blocking a sidewalk

Wow, we live in different universes. In my neighborhood in LA, I don't think I can find a block where the sidewalk is _not_ completely blocked by scooters. Whenever I go for a walk this is true. I usually throw them to the side, but they're back again the next day.

I don't know how wheelchair users deal with it.
posted by thefoxgod at 1:20 PM on July 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


Cowcatchers?
posted by Naberius at 1:22 PM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


a few silly scooters

Different cities have are going to be different, but (according to the most recent estimate I could find) there's like over 17,650 scooters in my city.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:22 PM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


And I can't remember the last time I ever saw a car parked across a sidewalk, so it truly is scooters (and not bicycles either) that are blocking sidewalks, at least in Hollywood/West Hollywood residential area.

Cars are far more dangerous when crossing the road, scooters are dangerous when walking on the sidewalk (been hit a couple times) and block the sidewalk. Both are bad for pedestrians (and I live in a fairly walkable neighborhood, so this is a common issue).
posted by thefoxgod at 1:22 PM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


John Heinkel [into phone]: "Oh, yeah? You're fucking-a we ripped your scooter, asshole! You want to know who told us where it was? Your god-damned user."
posted by glonous keming at 1:26 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


>>The gray area here is that laws regarding scooters are non-existent.
>That sounds like the fault of cities who didn't set laws in place before allowing the scooters at all.

Here in Cambridge, MA the scooters invaded despite existing *state* laws against them. It's not like the Scooter bros ask for permission. They dump the scooters and hope they get away with it. In this case, the city wasn't having any of that, so the city asked them to remove the scooters, (request ignored), then moved on to ordering them removed. When that was met with outright defiance they started impounding them. So let's not jump straight to blaming the cities here.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 1:32 PM on July 25, 2019 [22 favorites]


New Mexico's biggest city has been trying to manage scooters, benefiting from being a smaller big city, and as such, a second (or third) tier target for Scooter Drop Disruptors. Albuquerque just gave companies the green light to bring electric scooters to the city -- The city of Albuquerque is now accepting permit applications for companies interested in bringing their business to the Duke City. (KOAT, March 4, 2019)
[City Councilor Pat] Davis said Albuquerque was mindful of the potential for an overcrowding of unused scooters -- something the city of Austin, Texas has been dealing with. As many as 15,000 scooters were licensed in Austin in January.

"We saw cities that didn't have rules for this, had big problems," Davis said.

To avoid the same scenario, Albuquerque is laying down some rules, requiring companies to pay a fee for every scooter on the road.

Davis said this gives companies the incentive to only put out as many as needed and prevents unused scooters from overcrowding areas.

"That means for a company, if it's not making money, they're going to take it off the road because they don't want to pay the city of Albuquerque for something that lays there that doesn't make money for them," Davis said.

All traffic laws will apply for scooter riders, according to Davis. They will be treated like bicyclists. Riders younger than 18, for example, must wear a helmet.

The scooter company must also, within 24 hours, remove any scooters that are parked in a way that blocks sidewalks, bike share stations, driveways, accessible ramps, bus stops or handicapped parking.

Companies must also have a local point-of-contact who can respond to requests or emergencies at any time.
And I recently heard that the city passed requirements that scooters be parked in clearly marked spaces that are designated for scooter parking, to clearly guide folks as to where to leave scooters. But as noted in the OP,
In the midst of the scooter explosion, Bostian noticed that people were littering the hotel driveway with scooters, blocking guests from driving in and out. He’s tried asking riders to move the scooters elsewhere. About half have agreed. The other half threw f-bombs.
And that was when someone directly asked people to move the device they were just riding.

In short: without serious and visible enforcement, I fear regulations will have limited impacts on scooter dumps.

sciatrix: But ADA accessibility tends to be honored only insofar as it's actively prosecuted, and it's not a huge priority for cities to tackle day to day--so what do you do? Sue those fuckers, that's what I think. Those companies should have to be responsible for making their users put the scooters somewhere where they don't interfere with other people's access everywhere, not just on campus.

Yeah, that, too. I'm heading out of Denver, where scooters are all over downtown. But to Denver's benefit, it has crazy wide sidewalks, so there has generally been ample space for all users, and the scooters I've seen are usually placed to one side or another of a sidewalk. Even this one that looks like it was recently fished from the river -- it still placed upright, and off the trail, as if it was ready to be used again.

But any city with narrow sidewalks? Yeah, good luck to able-bodied people to avoid dumpted scooters, let alone those with limited or reduced mobility.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:35 PM on July 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


And speaking of city plans for e-scooters, they should look to learn from the previous wave of bike rentals: What Happens to All Those Old, Phased-Out Shared Bikes? -- Some get second lives with nonprofits or even a museum. Others … not so much. (Jane C. Hu for Slate, July 23, 2019)

Especially for cities that support scooters and distributed bike rentals as environmental boons, they should work with the companies to make sure that there are end-of-life plans for e-scooters, whether individually trashed beyond repair, or "retired" when a company leaves a market and finds a better ROI to buy new scooters for their next market.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:40 PM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


Yea but I can't personally throw a car in the dumpster, or back at their CEO.

you just have to believe in yourself
posted by poffin boffin at 1:43 PM on July 25, 2019 [25 favorites]


The whole "if you have issues with scooters then you are beholden to car culture" line is some techno-utopian-libertarian bullshit.

My response to this is, “Oh, even me, who has been car-free for seven years?” Then I roll my eyes extra hard, for emphasis.

Cars are thousand times worse

“Hello, police? Someone just stole my purse!”
“You're worried about your purse?? Do you know how many people were murdered this week??”

How does this form of whataboutism make any sense?
posted by Room 641-A at 1:44 PM on July 25, 2019 [16 favorites]


Hi, it's your friendly neighborhood ventilator-dependent quadriplegic again. Being a New Yorker, I haven't had to deal with the scooter problem on a large scale yet, but it has already happened. A couple of months ago, I was getting closer to my destination when I discovered 2 large scooters and one small child-size one parked neatly in the curb cut, completely blocking my path. I had to go down the street to get up onto the sidewalk. (Not all streets have curb cuts on every corner, people! This could have blocked my access to the sidewalk entirely.)

I am sure that whoever perpetrated that thought they were being responsible and polite when they parked their 3 scooters in such an out of the way place as the wheelchair curb cut. I'm sure they'd thought they were teaching their child proper manners. It's not like wheelchair users ever have to go outside, after all. Sidewalks are for normal people only!
posted by Soliloquy at 1:49 PM on July 25, 2019 [44 favorites]


 I'm so glad that Toronto hasn't allowed these in yet.

I'll know as soon as they do, though. Not because I'd see them downtown, but I live near the scrap yards on Manville Street. Anything loose and metal that's on a Toronto sidewalk (including some surprisingly nice bikes that look as if they had to be sprung loose) ends up in the Manville/Comstock vortex.
posted by scruss at 1:49 PM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


thefoxgod: And I can't remember the last time I ever saw a car parked across a sidewalk, so it truly is scooters (and not bicycles either) that are blocking sidewalks, at least in Hollywood/West Hollywood residential area.

Come walk around the (non-downtown) Boston area sometime. If I can go two blocks without having to walk in the street because someone's either pulled half onto a sidewalk or parked three cars in a driveway big enough for one, I count it as a good walk. And those cars usually manage to block the whole sidewalk in areas where there's no curb cut nearby.
posted by fader at 1:53 PM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


in nyc it's the cop cars that are parked on the sidewalk and if you even look like you might mention that it's blocking wheelchair access for someone, you get arrested for resisting arrest
posted by poffin boffin at 1:59 PM on July 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


Yeah, thats why I specified my area. Each city/neighborhood seems to have its own challenges. My area is a weird hybrid of residential with lots of tourists, and the scooters seem to be primarily used by the tourists. This probably intensifies the "who cares what we do with them" attitude.

Cars are certainly a big issue for street crossing (all vehicles of any type love running stop signs in my area, but obviously the consequences increase drastically with mass), but not for sidewalks. Bicyclists mostly avoid the sidewalks. But scooters (a) almost exclusively run on the sidewalks, and (b) nearly exclusively park on the sidewalks [except for the occasional one that parks on someone's driveway, which is not much better].
posted by thefoxgod at 2:06 PM on July 25, 2019


honestly i don't even know if we have this scooter plague here? i have not seen them in either my own uptown neighborhood or in the w vill, the only other place i ever go. if i see any i will hurl them into the river.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:09 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


Love the title.
posted by repoman at 2:10 PM on July 25, 2019 [13 favorites]


Is there anything else this size which you can leave anywhere (or have other people leave anywhere) and have the expectation that your ownership claim will be honoured? These scooters seem to be in a liminal space between vehicle and litter.
posted by clawsoon at 2:11 PM on July 25, 2019 [13 favorites]


I've seen scooters blocking sidewalks, but I've also seen utility poles blocking sidewalks, broken sidewalks, construction blocking sidewalks, and cars blocking sidewalks. I get that scooters are a pain, but I don't see how the vision impaired could realistically walk for more than a few blocks without *something* blocking the way, and scooters seem to be the least worst and most moveable.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:12 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


But to Denver's benefit, it has crazy wide sidewalks, so there has generally been ample space for all users, and the scooters I've seen are usually placed to one side or another of a sidewalk.

Oh shit, I think I might have given you the wrong impression of Denver sidewalks. About 40% of the city has no sidewalks or substandard sidewalks (18-inch-wide rollover curbs in place of sidewalks are pathetically common.)

Haven't tried any of the scooters yet, have moved them out of the way when they've fallen or are parked across sidewalks and such, because FFS if the sidewalk is blocked and I am able to fix it myself safely, it beats making someone using a wheelchair wait until 311 gets the request. Being able to do that is a definite improvement on all the cars I see parked in ways that block curb cuts, crosswalks, bike lanes, and sidewalks, since I am not physically able to move those myself.

I don't think all the problems with the scooters falling over and being parked badly are because the people riding them are malicious and thoughtless (though surely some are, because humans gonna human.) The kickstands for most of them are kinda bad, and won't hold them upright on soft or uneven ground, and they'll blow over in a stiff breeze. Those really ought to be improved on new models.

tl;dr: repurpose a couple of car parking spaces on each block for scooter and bicycle parking and we'll improve visibility for everyone trying to cross streets and keep the sidewalks clear.
posted by asperity at 2:13 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Hey, look at those assholes over there. People on scooters, I fk'n hate 'em.
posted by sjswitzer at 2:14 PM on July 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


Seattle hasn't gotten them yet, and the mayor has said she doesn't want them because of the potential crash hazards for users. My gut (which has a Masters in Political Science from Uninformed Opinions University™) says it's because City Hall hasn't figured out how to squeeze money out of the ScootBros yet.
posted by RakDaddy at 2:20 PM on July 25, 2019


Also, it's hilly as hell, and I don't think those scooters could cope.
posted by RakDaddy at 2:20 PM on July 25, 2019


from experience: they can handle steepish hills but drop down to 6-8 mph or so.

and uhh you can get them up to 30 on the way down. or uhh so i have heard. yes i was told this by a friend this is not a thing i have done myself that would be ridiculous. ha! ha! ridiculous!
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:30 PM on July 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


Anecdote, being in the CBD of SLC, they're everywhere. Technically they're supposed to ride in the roads (protected bike lanes) but the common use of them looks like tourists since they're busy looking for directions and at things and nearly running me down. Seems like the commuter folk who use them are conscientious of others around them. Salt Lake revoked their business license when they first came to town and made them re-apply with the condition that they get ride sharing data for future planning of transit.

I've had to work around some parked illegally in the middle of our light rail platforms. Grump that I am, if you install their app, you can scan the QR Code on the scooter and snap a photo and report them as parked illegally. I assume this dings the user who left them there somehow. It makes me feel good.

Someone had built a replaceable IC that lets you kill the GPS and basically make a scooter your own. I think that worked with the old model scooters that have since been phased out, since there are so many iterations of them out there.

And of course, everything being cyclical, we've now got Razor joining the fray of Lime, Bird, and Spin, with seated scooters. Much like car share, it seems like the economics of these scooters won't ever pay off. They simply fall apart before they can start to turn a profit. It will be interesting to see the data to see if these displace walking trips or if they take a bite out of things people would use a car share for.
posted by msbutah at 2:36 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


honestly i don't even know if we have this scooter plague here? i have not seen them in either my own uptown neighborhood or in the w vill, the only other place i ever go. if i see any i will hurl them into the river.

No scooter rentals in NYC yet. Honestly, I'd love to have a system of docked scooters here. I'm not sure why we're not seeing those anywhere yet - it would eliminate just about every complaint about scooters I've seen.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:39 PM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


because the street parking people would deafen us all once again with their shrill entitled squeals
posted by poffin boffin at 2:48 PM on July 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


Has any city tried just scooping them up, taking them to a crusher and, when the company asks where their scooters have gone, presenting them with the cubes and the bill for the junkyard?

I don't suppose it would work.

(I mean, they're litter, aren't they? If the companies eschew the responsibility for them, they no longer have the right to complain if they're properly disposed of, surely?)
posted by Grangousier at 3:12 PM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


Fun game: mentally replace every instance of "scooter" or "bike" in these comments with "car" instead :)
posted by splitpeasoup at 3:27 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure what pisses me off most about these things:
(a) the whole tragedy-of-the-commons spectacle/marketing angle ("Ugh, this thing is in the way. Maybe I should try it and leave it in someone else's way. lolz") (see ps)
(b) all the wasted lithium batteries
(c) that it's getting us all used to the notion of social credit and maybe that's the least-bad solution to a number of problems in this space

GAH.
pleh.

p.s. I have a queasy hunch that the lulz-worthy pics we see of Seattle-area bikeshares in improbable places are tacitly encouraged by, if not actually directly carried out by, the bikeshare companies themselves.
posted by runehog at 3:28 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm one of the terrible car driving wheelchair users and those scooters are a menace. Twice in the past week, I have arrived at work to find a scooter laying in the disabled parking space I use. I had to park in the loading zone, get in my wheelchair and then drag the extremely heavy scooter to the side before I could park.

I also do use the sidewalk in my wheelchair and the sidewalk in my neighborhood is very narrow with a wall on one side and the road on the other. When a scooter is parked on the sidewalk, I can't get around it. I don't want to push the damn things into the road just so I can get by, so I have to go back down a block, cross to the other side and come back across the road. One time I saw that one of the scooters had been shoved off the sidewalk into the street so I know I'm not the only one around here who has been inconvenienced.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 3:30 PM on July 25, 2019 [29 favorites]


Fun game: mentally replace every instance of "scooter" or "bike" in these comments with "car" instead :)


What if we replace "scooter" or "bike" with "multinational corporations"? Or maybe "the flaws inherent in humanity"? "Trappings of the industrial revolution"? Oh I know a good one: "Securitized ownership of global fiefdoms."

My "more important thing" is more important than yours.
posted by avalonian at 3:52 PM on July 25, 2019 [12 favorites]


replacing “scooter” with “the bafflingly long broadway run of andrew lloyd webber’s cats” works perfectly.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:59 PM on July 25, 2019 [22 favorites]


Has any city tried just scooping the bafflingly long broadway run of andrew lloyd webber’s cats up, taking it to a crusher and, when the company asks where their long-running and universally reviled sung-through musical has gone, presenting them with the cubes and the bill for the junkyard?

I don't suppose it would work.

posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 4:05 PM on July 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


(don’t think of this as a derail. instead, think of it as our ragged, tattered old arguments about scooters, cars, and bikes finally getting to go to the heaviside layer)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 4:12 PM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


The thing about cars: We have 100 years of regulation covering operation, liability, ownership etc. So from this perspective, cars are better. The same horrible humans operate cars, but mostly the whole thing of driving is kind of awesome, because the awful drivers totally stand out.
Denver has an interesting problem. We have pretty sensible regs, but they are simply not enforced. I have no idea why.
I’ve used them a few times. I’m fit, and they are fatiguing for more than 5 or 10 minutes. You need to maintain an athletic stance to absorb shock, you to need to pay attention to minor road imperfections. I think the fact that you move so fast with minimal equipment is the attraction. Also, they’re sort of like a skateboard, because of the asymmetric stance. They’re like magic carpet for a mile or two.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 4:19 PM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


“All over something that is $4.50 each,” Heinkel says

Really? That seems crazy if true.
posted by JoeZydeco at 4:42 PM on July 25, 2019


Big scooter pays about $5 for the juicers to fully charge and release each scooter, but some vendors like Bird have a system that makes scooters that have been AWOL progressively more valuable, worth up to $20. This incentivizes people to search for the hard to find ones, or encourages breaking and entering.
posted by peeedro at 4:55 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Has any city tried just scooping them up, taking them to a crusher and, when the company asks where their scooters have gone, presenting them with the cubes and the bill for the junkyard?

That's basically what Shanghai did with dockless bikes.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:16 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


To the extent that scooter companies have a business model, it is predicated on the theft of public space for private profit. I profoundly hate the accommodations cities make for cars, but the idea that this is a progressive alternative is preposterous.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:40 PM on July 25, 2019 [31 favorites]


hello from DC where i routinely see lime scooters blocking the front doors — yes, those that open at the press of the button for those requiring the feature — & the revolving door of the building containing the office where i sometimes hold down a chair. twice just last week! and various brands blocking escalators heading into and coming from the metro, just splayed across the sidewalk, and, one memorable recent morning many scooters were lined up as though on display in that part of the sidewalk that is a ramp leading into the crosswalk on all four corners of the intersection! these anecdotes are from just one city block.
posted by 20 year lurk at 5:46 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


"Not sure what jurisdictions all you "it's just like towing cars, geeze" commenters are responding from, but here in California you can't just drive around and tow vehicles at will, even those on private property."

This is literally the business model of not one but SEVERAL Chicago towing companies.

"Every business should be required to have a certain number of places to park bicycles and scooters out front near the door, "
"tl;dr: repurpose a couple of car parking spaces on each block for scooter and bicycle parking and we'll improve visibility for everyone trying to cross streets and keep the sidewalks clear."


Yes to both of these! Painting off one parking spot in a shopping center for bikes and scooters and putting a rack in it would be an enormous boon and take a tiny bite out of car parking by adding a little bit of bike/scooter infrastructure.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:06 PM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


I work at a food co-op and we have several big bike racks near the door. We have been getting complaints from the bike riders that the racks are blocked by scooters, sometimes piles of scooters. People ride them to the store then realize they can't carry their groceries home on the scooter and call a ride share or take the bus home, leaving the scooters where they got off—in front of the bike racks. Several times a day, a staff person has to take a big flat cart and hoist a mess of scooters onto it then wheel them around the building to the sidewalk where there's a place big enough to hold them. As you can imagine, hoisting a bunch of heavy scooters in 100° weather causes a bit of grumbling by the staff.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 6:12 PM on July 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


replacing “scooter” with “the bafflingly long broadway run of andrew lloyd webber’s cats” works perfectly.


My god, scooteristas.

Many grocery stores in Michigan have those wide cement things for a Puch or two. And shaded bike racks.
posted by clavdivs at 6:13 PM on July 25, 2019


look all i want is a zoomy little platform with questionably functional brakes that goes downhill super fast and will definitely kill me or else leave me covered with head to toe road rash is that too much to ask after all isn’t that what cities are for?
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:20 PM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


I live in Raleigh, NC. Last year, Bird and Lime scooters appeared in droves. Eventually, the city decided to charge a fee for each scooter. Bird sent a “woe is me” email to Bird users in the area saying they had “no choice” but to raise their starting fee for each ride from $1 to $3 unless we, the customers, told our mean city council to stop being buzzkills and “fight the scooter tax”. If we didn’t, they’d have to stop operating in Raleigh!

Meanwhile, Lime kept their startup fees at $1, and Bird took their ball and went home. Later, in the summer, Bird came back, grudgingly, since Lime never went anywhere and I guess they didn’t want to lose mindshare. They are still a ripoff compared to Lime.

Meanwhile, there’s a docked biking thing jointly operated by the city and Citrix that seems to be getting some adoption. Of course, docking stations aren’t “everywhere”, but there are quite a few. Also, they have baskets so you can actually bring things home with you!

Bottom line: go repo men and fuck you, Bird, etc. Come back when you actually want to work with cities instead of being merely VC-backed entitled dicks outsourcing all of the risks and externalities.
posted by snortasprocket at 7:02 PM on July 25, 2019 [11 favorites]


I mean we're on a pretty violent streak again here in the Capitoal,* so my only hope with the scooters is to have one handy when I'm biking past some crimes and whip that sucker up like a lithium-powered nunchaku into the face of the (super obvious because of their hats) villains.**

*English orthography is stupid and I won't participate in this one.
**Working title: Fixed Gears to Freedom

posted by aspersioncast at 8:57 PM on July 25, 2019


Also good indoctrination of the 'vcbackedassholes' tag.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:58 PM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


If you're going to devote public space to docks, it might as well be bikes. They're just as able-assuming (especially for balance), but actually feasible for longer car-replacement rides and you can carry groceries on them.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:09 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


The Blue Bikes are also kind of... legitimate? in a way Bird and Lime scooters aren't.

There was a year of working with the planning department in where the docks go. There s a $20 a year cash payment option for low income new orleanians. They work out to $5 a month, which is cheaper than servicing one s own bike. In turn, they increase ridership in the city, in general.

All these things because the company worked with the city planning department and respected residents.
posted by eustatic at 2:51 AM on July 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


Also, most relevant to this article, the city raised the hourly rate at the request of bike rental companies.

That s why they are $8 an hour, but $5 -15 a month, or $20 a year.
posted by eustatic at 3:07 AM on July 26, 2019


As a result of my previous comment and a helpful Mefite, I am now the impulse-purchase owner of an ex-Bird scooter of only slightly dubious provenance, allegedly from a police auction, and am now aware of the huge semi-underground market for them. They apparently sell at auction for under $100 and the conversion kit to restore the controls back to their civilian configuration (including Bluetooth link to your phone, because this is 2019 and why not) is about $30. If you want it to fold up—the Bird ones don't—that's another $50 or so for a replacement hinge and "pole".

I still do not approve of the dockless concept due to the bad behavior it tacitly encourages, but after an hour of letting everyone who lives with me ride the thing around the neighborhood, everyone agreed it's some of the most dumb fun you can have in a suburban cul-de-sac with your clothes on. (You can, I suppose, ride it without clothes on, but this is not recommended.)

They really are neat little devices.

It's somewhat absurd they don't have a bag hook or any other facility for carrying even a small amount of cargo, though. It's telling that one of the most common additions to privately-owned ones is a $3 hook for hanging a handbag/purse/whatever.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:56 AM on July 26, 2019 [13 favorites]


Where I live these are nonexistent, but they just appeared in the German city where my friend lives. He was telling me about some of the issues with them—said he had heard about research from Louisville, Kentucky that showed the lifespan of an e-scooter in that city is four weeks. FOUR WEEKS! If that’s correct and can be extrapolated to other cities, it’s horrendously environmentally irresponsible.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:15 AM on July 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


Anti-car people in the scooter threads always remind me of talking to a certain brand of leftist. You'll say that racism or sexism is an issue and we should address it and they'll go NOOOOO! It's only class! That's the only important thing, once we fix that all will be perfect paradise! Addressing racial or sexual inequities is just a distraction!

For example, my street has extremely wide sidewalk margins, nearly twice as wide as the sidewalk itself, and about as wide as the parking lane. Yet I regularly find scooters cast down in the middle of the sidewalk, when they could just move them a couple of steps onto the margin. Taking away parking would not address the issue given there is more space available than the entire parking area (since there are significant red zones) and riders are ignoring it. That's something cities need to force the scooter companies to address by making them responsible for where scooters are dropped.
posted by tavella at 8:42 AM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


It's somewhat absurd they don't have a bag hook or any other facility for carrying even a small amount of cargo, though. It's telling that one of the most common additions to privately-owned ones is a $3 hook for hanging a handbag/purse/whatever.

I've actually never ridden an e-scooter, but the few times I've ridden a kick scooter I just hung my bag from one of the handlebars. It actually made my ride smoother because the weight seemed to help me balance.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:03 AM on July 26, 2019


Just last night in Spokane I witnessed a phalanx of scooters arranged on a street corner in such a way that the sidewalk would be completely impassable to anyone in a wheelchair.

Also I heard two stories about scooter accidents, one of which involved broken ribs and one which involved brain surgery. BRAIN SURGERY.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:14 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


 One time I saw that one of the scooters had been shoved off the sidewalk into the street so I know I'm not the only one around here who has been inconvenienced.

I now have an image of a power-chair with a Murderball-style cow catcher (train whistle optional) zooming down the sidewalk with a Nembrotha kubaryana resplendent at the helm, pushing the discarded scoots out the way with obvious glee …

Outside my over-active imagination, these shall we say liberated scooters do look very similar to add-on power-packs ($$$$, because the ♿ tax) I've seen for manual wheelchairs. I may work in makerspace assistive tech, but being part of the non-profit industrial complex my employer tends to be very law-abiding and averse to this sort of thing. What I do in my own time, though …
posted by scruss at 9:33 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


> I've seen scooters blocking sidewalks, but I've also seen utility poles blocking sidewalks, broken sidewalks, construction blocking sidewalks, and cars blocking sidewalks. I get that scooters are a pain, but I don't see how the vision impaired could realistically walk for more than a few blocks without *something* blocking the way, and scooters seem to be the least worst and most moveable

I would think the "moveable" would be part of the issue -- if you're walking in an area you know well, you know where the utility poles etc are, even if they're not where they should be.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:11 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


but I don't see how the vision impaired could realistically walk for more than a few blocks without *something* blocking the way

i would like to enthusiastically and with extreme vigor suggest that fully abled people not casually dismiss the lived issues and difficulties faced by people with disabilities when they admit they have absolutely no fucking knowledge at all of what those issues and difficulties are or how they are navigated by people with disabilities in their everyday lives! thank you! thank you very super much! good day.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:19 AM on July 26, 2019 [35 favorites]


They're impounding vehicles that have been left on private property, the same as if they would tow illegally parked cars." If I park my car on your lawn, blocking your driveway, wheelchair ramp, garage, etc., or in your private parking space (not on a public street) it can be towed immediately. When I lived in a not that big city, sometimes people would just be huge jackholes. This business model makes use of public space way beyond its contribution, and the business model will not be altered without pressure. Capitalists hate it when capitalism bites back.
posted by theora55 at 1:16 PM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


For example, my street has extremely wide sidewalk margins, nearly twice as wide as the sidewalk itself, and about as wide as the parking lane. Yet I regularly find scooters cast down in the middle of the sidewalk, when they could just move them a couple of steps onto the margin.

If by sidewalk margin you mean grass/dirt/some other soft surface: the things don't stay upright when parked on those. They might stay upright on sidewalk pavement. Which is still unhelpful when people parking them don't put them in a useful spot, leading to: painting parking spaces for scooters and dockless bikes.

From what I've seen of the painted scooter parking spaces, they do seem to be used, but with paint alone people only see them when they're on top of them, and they could use better signage, and absolutely more consistent availability. If you know there's a designated place within a close distance of everywhere you might want to stop, you're more likely to use that place. We're nowhere near that yet.

It's just much easier for clueless assholes to comply with parking guidelines when we literally write entire cities' zoning codes with car parking as the primary concern, and pages and pages and pages of detailed requirements for where, how many, and what size. And even that doesn't stop people from parking cars on sidewalks, or blocking curb cuts, or any of the other shitty things people will do when they want to do a thing that is not in their car and want to get out of that car right now.
posted by asperity at 2:02 PM on July 26, 2019


Not sure what jurisdictions all you "it's just like towing cars, geeze" commenters are responding from, but here in California you can't just drive around and tow vehicles at will, even those on private property.

It sounds like they're doing it at the request of the business owners, unless I missed something. That would be legal.

From the article:

Together, the two men run an operation called ScootScoop. They say that they have impounded thousands of dockless e-scooters around San Diego on behalf of business owners and landlords who are fed up with the deluge of dockless two-wheelers.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:10 PM on July 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


I wonder if there's been any research into the use cases for these scooters, because to me they seem like an alternative to walking, not driving.
They can be useful as a "last mile" solution for public transit, for trips that otherwise don't have a workable bus or train route. I know at least one person using the dockless rental bikes here in Seattle to replace car trips with bus + e-bike trips.
posted by mbrubeck at 3:25 PM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


One time I saw that one of the scooters had been shoved off the sidewalk into the street so I know I'm not the only one around here who has been inconvenienced.

That might actually be the solution. When they start inconveniencing car drivers, that's when someone will get motivated to do something.
posted by ctmf at 9:30 PM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


> Just last night in Spokane I witnessed a phalanx of scooters arranged on a street corner in such a way that the sidewalk would be completely impassable to anyone in a wheelchair.

i really wish i could convince my fellow scooter users not to put these things in phalanx formation. as stated upthread, they’re best thought of as light cavalry. not infantry. not barricades. light. cavalry.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:05 PM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Dockless Scooters are the Single Use Plastic of transportation.
posted by Pembquist at 7:59 AM on July 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


When they start inconveniencing car drivers, that's when someone will get motivated to do something.

Agreed. Anything on the sidewalk is "out of sight, out of mind" as far as cities tend to be concerned, and car-focused suburbs doubly so. Start tossing things into the curb lanes or parking spaces and they'll be impounded right quick.

Apparently the latest generation of dockless scooters, at least in some cases, have remotely-controlled locks and have to be locked to some sort of object in order to stop the meter (and therefore your fees). This isn't a perfect solution but it at least stops scooters from being left right in the middle of the sidewalk. And there are more established procedures for removing bicycles and other transportation devices locked illegally to trees / railings / fences / parking meters / whatever. (In NYC, locking to a tree makes you theoretically eligible for a $1000 fine, and locking to an MTA railing will get your stuff confiscated.) OTOH, bike racks in urban areas tend to be few and far between, so introducing a lot of new competition for secure lock locations isn't awesome, either.

Interestingly, according to WaPo, several companies came into the DC market with mixes of dockless bikes and scooters, and the scooters were far and away the more popular choice than the bikes, to the point where several companies withdrew the bikes from the market. So trying to make dockless bikes happen is probably not a great proposition; the demand doesn't seem to be there, but not because people don't want some sort of mobility solution. They just don't want bikes. Or, perhaps, people don't care about dockless bikes, given that DC and the surrounding area already has a reasonably mature dock-to-dock bikeshare system.

Anyway, I see bikes and scooters as complementary forms of transportation, and I think they can make using public transportation more practical by increasing the radius around transit stops that people are willing to use it, and reducing the number of transfers needed to get from arbitrary point A to B. (E.g. if you increase users' "last mile" distance tolerance, you might be able to walk to Metro instead of walking to a bus to Metro, or maybe you can get to an express bus, or to a different Metro line, such that the overall trip is less complicated.) I think subsidizing personally-owned scooters is probably a better solution than dockless ones, but I'd certainly be happy to be proven wrong. There are certainly inequalities that would probably be exacerbated with any subsidy scheme (such as the one that pays for folding bicycles in the UK).
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:35 AM on July 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


From MIT Technology Review:

Sorry, scooters aren’t so climate-friendly after all
A look at the full lifetime emissions of the vehicles call into question the ecological assumptions around “micromobility.”
posted by Room 641-A at 10:36 AM on August 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


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