If you visited an American city during the summer of 2018, you may have seen one of these.
The photos suggest they’re a nuisance. The surveys indicate that they’re beloved. Dockless electric scooters made waves when companies released them to city sidewalks, often without permission. Unfortunately for pedestrians, that meant the loss of valuable real estate.
This is not the first time that a transportation technology has robbed pedestrians of space.
“In the 1920s and 1930s we start seeing many more cars in cities. It is not only the pedestrians that are afraid. Cities are also concerned with issues of liability,” Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a UCLA professor of urban planning, told Vox. “We start seeing the first pedestrian automobile crashes. And so the cities start, really, segregating the two types of uses — the pedestrian circulation from the bigger circulation.”
Space in cities, especially on the sidewalk, is pretty tight these days. But we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the potential of electric scooters. These lightweight vehicles and their counterparts could solve a key transportation access issue: the “last mile.”
Personal vehicles, taxis, and companies like Lyft or Uber have provided the most realistic travel option for those far from a neighborhood subway station or bus stop. But the growing popularity of tiny vehicles — Segways, electric skateboards, and now scooters — may change the status quo.
It’s a worthy goal. In several American cities, space alloted to cars dominates other land uses. In places like New York City, the political debate over congestion pricing rages. Decades of underinvestment across the country have left train and bus systems overburdened.
The rise of dockless individual transport is about a fundamental shift in inner-city transit. You can watch the video above to learn about the scooters, the last mile problem, and how “complete streets” could push city streets into the future.