Electric Scooters, Controversy Roll Out In Cities Across The U.S.

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Electric scooters, like these ones pictured in France from the U.S. startup Bird, are a common sight in downtown Austin, Texas. (Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)
Electric scooters, like these ones pictured in France from the U.S. startup Bird, are a common sight in downtown Austin, Texas. (Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Electric scooters are the new biggest thing on two wheels. They’re popping up in cities across the country, but not without controversy.


Callum Borchers, reporter covering the innovation economy in Boston for member station WBUR. (@callumborchers)

Sanjay Dastoor, CEO and co-founder of electric transportation companies Skip Scooters and Boosted Boards. (@sanjaydastoor)

Adam Stephens, deputy city attorney of Milwaukee. Part of a federal lawsuit against Bird Rides Inc. over refusal to remove Bird scooters from public streets and cease rental business.

Susan Shaheen, professor and co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. (@SusanShaheen1)

From The Reading List

Vox: "Electric scooters’ sudden invasion of American cities, explained" — "Hundreds of motorized electric scooters quietly descended upon San Francisco seemingly overnight in March.

"And then one day in June, they were gone.

"In the months before their rapture, the scooters puzzled, infatuated, and infuriated residents. Those who dared to try them discovered a whimsical and cheap way to get around. Non-riders saw a swarm of locusts devouring precious inches of sidewalk and street, backed by companies that were the epitome of tech-bro arrogance. The city panicked, ordering that all scooters be removed until it could come up with a permitting process.

"San Francisco is a microcosm of the promise and perils of the scooter stampede. Already, scooter companies operate in 65 cities and are vying for the top prize, New York City. Some city officials, however, are desperately trying to rein in and regulate scooters, which often appear without warning and without local input."

WBUR: "'Ghost' Scooters Add Mystery To The Standoff Between Bird And Cambridge" — "Electric scooters from Bird Rides, Inc. can still be rented in Cambridge, one week after the city's deadline for the company to leave. Whether the scooters can be found is another matter.

Over a three-day period this week, WBUR found — or, rather, didn't find — more than two dozen 'ghost' scooters advertised in the Bird smartphone app that did not exist in real life. Other users encountered the same problem."

Milwaukee Business Journal: "Milwaukee's lawsuit against scooter startup Bird moves to federal court" — "The city of Milwaukee's lawsuit against the electric scooter-sharing business that began operating in Milwaukee about two weeks ago has been moved to a federal court.

"Attorneys for Bird Rides Inc. elected to move the suit to a federal court on Thursday, July 12, according to Milwaukee County documents, the day before the Santa Monica, Calif.-based startup was to appear at an injunction hearing at the Milwaukee County Court. The hearing was for a motion the city filed against Bird, ordering the company to remove its motorized scooters from public streets and sidewalks and cease its rental business in the city."

Washington Post: "The electric scooters swarming our city won’t solve our commuting calamity" — "What we really want are jet packs and flying cars, okay?

"We need to George Jetson and Marty McFly our way out of our traffic and commuting calamity. Light rail, Mag-Lev, even a reliable Metro would work, too.

"The electric scooters swarming our city this summer?

"Not the answer.

"They’re like what happens if my son’s fifth grade squad took over the city planning commission and PeeWee Herman was their board chairman.

"Don’t get me wrong. I’ve tried the scooters, and they’re totally fun, cheap and effective. They are perfect answer to what used to be a sweaty, five-block walk in between meetings in downtown D.C.

"But many of the 65 or so U.S. cities — from Washington to San Francisco — are confounded by what to do with the traffic newcomer. Should the motorized scooters be regulated like cars? Bikes? Or pedestrians?"

This program aired on August 30, 2018.


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