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Free Minds & Free Markets

Don't Ban Electric Scooters

Leave scooters, their makers, and customers alone.

I just zipped down a city street on an electric scooter. It cost me 15 cents a minute. Fast and fun!

My scooter was just lying on the ground. I picked it up, activated it with my phone, and rode away. When I was done, I simply abandoned it.

Won't it be stolen? No, because you need an app to activate the scooter and a GPS device keeps track of it.

My wife loves using the newish Citi Bike shared bicycles that are locked in a big dock near our apartment. They were a good innovation.

But then entrepreneurs came up with "dockless" bikes. They're even better.

Better still are these shared scooters. They're small, flexible, cheap, and convenient. Maybe these scooters will be the next revolution in urban transit!

But politicians may kill them off before we get a chance to find out how useful they are.

Some places have already banned the scooters. San Francisco said they "endanger public health and safety." City attorney Dennis Herrera complained about "broken bones, bruises, and near misses."

Sigh. Yet San Francisco also complains about not having enough transportation options.

In San Francisco and other cities, scooter companies tried doing what Uber and Airbnb did: They dodged destructive regulation by simply putting their services out on the street, hoping that by the time sleepy regulators noticed them, they would be too popular to ban.

That worked for Uber and Airbnb. We consumers got cool new ways to travel and alternatives to hotels, and investors got rich—all because they didn't ask for permission. Permissionless innovation brings good things.

But flying under the radar is harder for scooter companies. Scooters on sidewalks are very visible.

"Unfortunately," Mercatus Center tech policy analyst Jennifer Skees told me for my latest video, "cities haven't learned from their experiences with companies like Uber and Airbnb. They want innovators to come ask for permission and go through the regulatory processes."

But the "regulatory processes" take years. "That prevents consumers from accessing a transportation option that could be accessible now!" said Skees.

After a four-month ban, San Francisco granted permits to two small scooter companies. The politicians stiffed Lime and Bird, the innovators that started the business—presumably because they didn't kiss the politicians' rings and beg for permission first.

Still, even I acknowledge that there may be a role for government here. A public square needs some rules. Scooters, especially speedy electric scooters, can be dangerous.

"We haven't seen a large number of accidents or injuries," says Skees. "We don't ban bicycles because somebody might get hurt…. Social norms (like hand signals) will evolve."

Whenever there's something new, the media hype the problems. The Los Angeles Times reports that some people hate the scooters so much that they "have been crammed into toilets, tossed off balconies and set on fire." Internet videos show scooters abandoned in the Pacific Ocean.

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  • jcw||

    As a regular biker in the city, I honestly don't mind them. It's funny, once I hit a certain cross street on 15th, scooters swarm and outnumber bikers. So I'm not sure if it's helping congestion or anything like that on a serious level, but it will make real estate farther away from regular transportation options more attractive, which I think is cool.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Sigh. Yet San Francisco also complains about not having enough transportation options.

    Look, city decision makers cannot extract bribes from and exert undue control over solutions that are just lying around for the commoners' taking.

  • Conchfritters||

    The scooters are faster than the $2 billion light rail in Minneapolis, and cheaper. The city planners with train boners are not happy with the scooters.

  • Red Tony||

    "Train boners."

    We should just use this as a catch-all term for everyone trying to push light rail.

    TB: Hey, did you hear about this new light rail proposal? It's a good idea because–
    Normal person: Shut the fuck up you train boner.

  • Jima||

    ^This!

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    "San Francisco said they "endanger public health and safety." City attorney Dennis Herrera complained about "broken bones, bruises, and near misses."

    Are we talking about scooters, or life south of Market Street?

  • GoatOnABoat||

    Whatever happened to the highly touted Segway?

  • Shirley Knott||

    Died a horrible death after it was adopted by G.O.B. Bluth.
    It's as good a theory as any.

  • MoreFreedom||

    Looks like a Segway costs at least 5X more than a scooter. A Segway needs a gyroscope to keep it balanced, assuming you're not a skilled unicyclist, while a scooter is easier to balance on than a bicycle

  • Weygand||

    Yes the scooters are a problem but not the syringes and fecal matter. Those can stay.

    Although frankly I detest the scooters and lately skateboards riding in traffic like that's where they belong.

    Well I guess if I give someone a job as my hood ornament it will help the economy.

  • Agammamon||

    So, the picture with this article is tape? About scooters? You guys do know that that isn't even electrical tape - which at least would have had 'electrical' in its name to link it to an article talking about electric scooters.

  • whatever1isthinking||

    I was a fan until I got clipped by one while walking on the sidewalk. The issue is that the scooter companies did not do enough to ensure that e-scooters would blend in nicely. They dumped them on the sidewalk (where they are not supposed to be ridden) and thought it would sort itself out. In the absence education on the safe use of an e scooter, we have scooters being routinely ridden on the sidewalk (vs the street). This is in part because parking them on the sidewalk suggests that riding them there is fine. It is not. They do not mix well with foot traffic, leading to frightened/ annoyed pedestrians at best and injury at worst. At intersections, they also do not mix well with cars (as they seem to come out of nowhere).

    Had they taken the effort to educate people about proper, legal use ( i.e. ride them on the street or in bike lanes), they might have met with less resistance. This is made worse in areas with high tourist activity as people on vacation are harder to target with education and have less farks to give about rules.


    What should they have done? I do not know. I can suggest a serious educational effort is needed. Probably not in the budget. I just know that what they did was not effective and reeks of recklessness.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Banning scooters is a good start.
    Next up, banning alcohol, drugs and guns.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  • LongShot_Louie||

    I havent seen one of these on the street yet, but I am not so sure I buy the anti-theft argument. It is predicated on the assumption every potential thief is aware that the product is not operable without the app. Without this knowledge, there is no theft deterrent. Perhaps, it's frustrated thieves that account for finding scooters "...crammed into toilets, tossed off balconies and set on fire....(and) abandoned in the Pacific Ocean."

    On another note, the area I live in just spent an obscene amount of taxpayer dollars on building a "scenic non-motorized bicycle path" to accommodate the demands of bicyclists who tell us non-motorized transportation is the wave of the future. Scooters would be excluded from that path because they are "motorized". Which leads me to wonder, "How long will it be before taxpayers are asked to pay for a special path to accommodate this "new wave of the future?"

  • AlishaQuinn||

    Yes, I think electro scooters are cool, I once read about this article on https://getmyessay.com/ if not mistaken, they described what they are environmentally friendly and everything in this case

  • No Longer Amused||

    Get your fucking inventory off the sidewalks.

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