Fighting the Scooter War of 2018
We've been back in Indianapolis for about 5 months now and it sure has been one hell of a ride! Somewhere around 500-800 E-scooters arrived sometime in June unannounced to the city and it's been a fight ever since!
I try not to be a person that complains but doesn't do anything to change what I'm complaining about. That's why I don't usually get involved in politics! However, I'm very passionate about this cause and I WANT to do something about it but I'm at a point where my hands feel tied and it breaks my heart. I’ve contacted the Mayor’s Action Office, the Neighborhood Services, the President of the City Council and numerous other Indianapolis organizations.
MJ finally convinced me to write a blog post so I could formulate all my thoughts and feelings about the scooters a little better. So here we are.
My stance is against scooters but I want to start with the positives. If you think there are others, please send them to me - I'm an open book!
They are new and fun which is obviously why they are super popular right now.
You can get around without using a car/gas/emissions.
Indianapolis can appear as a “tech” city (Do they still look like a tech city if all the surrounding metropolitan areas have them?)
The city makes $1.00 per day per scooter plus $15,000 per annual contract. The money, I've heard through the grapevine, is suppose to go to making more bike paths but will most likely be spent enforcing e-scooter rules.
Now that' we've established the pros let's talk about all the negatives... and there are a lot. Hold on to your seats, it's going to be a bumpy ride!
Like I mentioned before, Bird and Lime e-scooters showed up completely unannounced back in June. Currently, each company can have 1,500 scooters but Bird has said they would like to bring as many as SIX THOUSAND to the Indianapolis area.
Is it unethical for a company to show up in a city without any permits knowing they will be asked to leave or ordered a cease in desist? Their methods are to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. I understand it's business, but is it ethical? And it's not just Indianapolis, cities like Santa Monica, Nashville, Memphis, LA, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Washington DC, and so many more have been dealing with the same problems for several months.
And they aren't just going after big metro areas anymore! This week they dropped in Bloomington and Lafayette! Cities have rules and regulations that should be followed! If you wanted to start a business in a new city would you just move in and open up shop? The answer is no because you want to work with the city, work with the people and establish a good working relationship. I guess if you're a millionaire CEO you can do whatever you want!
LET'S THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE
Is it okay for someone to make money off public green space? They are making money by dropping their product off on our sidewalks and streets. It’s the first product of its kind, is it genius or dangerous?
Here's a little analogy. Can I start a clothing company and go around and lay all my clothes out on the sidewalks and then if someone likes something they can just unlock it using their phone and take it with them? I know that sounds crazy but isn't that basically what these scooter companies are doing? Using public space to run their company. No docking stations and no home base - just public land.
Let's travel to Seattle or Dallas or any other city that already has “dockless” rideshare companies. These cities have an immense amount of bike litter as a result of "dockless" companies. When we visited Seattle we were in shock at how many dockless bikes were littering the streets. As guests to these cities it was kind of appalling and I'm certain that's how some people will now view Indianpaolis.
I’m not exaggerating when I say there were 4-5 bright lime green bikes, bright orange bikes and bright yellow bikes on every single corner. Sounds great, right? Not exactly. Because there are no docking stations, people can leave them anywhere. Blocking sidewalks, blocking doorways, laying on their sides.
Here's an image from a simple Google image search "Seattle bike litter"
Unfortunately, these cities are now dealing with dockless bikes AND dockless scooters. It looks trashy and eventually that’s what they are going to end - in the trash. Scooters and bikes are going into our landfills because people are throwing them in rivers, oceans, cutting their cords, throwing them over bridges, etc. The companies don’t want to spend the money to repair them because they have such an abundance of them, so into the trash they go.
THE LITTER RANT CONTINUES
Let’s continue to the streets of Indianapolis, or should I say sidewalks? I didn't do my research but if I had to guess I would say that almost every single city in the entire United States has an ordinance against riding motorized vehicles on sidewalks. Some cities even go as far as forbidding bicycles or skateboards on sidewalks. Why is that? Because a sidewalk is supposed to be a safe place for pedestrians. Walkers can be safe from vehicles, they can safely walk their dog, push a stroller, get around in a wheelchair or with a white cane. That is, in fact, the purpose of a sidewalk.
Enter the scooters - on sidewalks. I’ve seen maybe 5 people total riding them in the street. They are ALL riding on the sidewalks. Did I mention the e-scooters can go up to 15mph?! It’s dangerous and it’s against the law. Unfortunately, I haven't seen Indianapolis have much of a backbone against riding them illegally because they are calling it a “grace” period until people learn the rules. It clearly states on the scooter and in the app you use to rent them, "Do not ride on sidewalks."
I go back and forth between despising the scooter companies or am I really angry at the people riding them? You know how 24 year old boys can be! I’ve seen so many "kids" zipping in and out of pedestrians, jumping curbs, and even riding down alleys kicking over trashcans. That’s not a joke – that happened in my alley.
WHERE TO PARK 3,000 SCOOTERS?
There are up to 3,000 scooters in Indianapolis. I have no doubt that 1,000 of them are in the downtown area. I can easily go anywhere and count about 50 of them from point A to point B. They are parked EVERYWHERE. Often, several of them are knocked over on their sides and there are even more blocking sidewalks - making them inaccessible for the handicap.
Here's a photo from the sidewalk the other day, of course, this is only one lousy example.
The IndyStar just published an article about how to report illegally parked scooters. This made me laugh out loud because do we seriously need to inform people how to report them because there are so many? That's a wake up call if I ever saw one! Also, is it the citizens responsibility to take care of the companies products?
USE OUR PRODUCT AND RUN OUR COMPANY, TOO!
So how do these scooters stay in good working condition? They hire local citizens to pick them up at night and charge them. So, in a way they are employing local people but it's in a tax-free way, therefore, not really helping the overall big picture. They drop their product off and then expect us to also run the company for them!
Bird has an SOS (save our sidewalks) Pledge on their website. It states that all scooters will be retrieved every night to be charged and inspected. The role of a charger is to go out into the community and pick up scooters, charge them at their residence and release them the next day.
Will this be a fad? Do you think people will keep wanting to do this? It seems like a lot of effort for little money. What happens when there aren’t enough chargers for the scooters? Dead scooters all of the streets? OR what if every bird doesn't need charged? Will someone still go and pick it up or will it continue to sit on the street... err sidewalk?
Not to mention, this is Indiana. What happens when it snows?
BIKES VS SCOOTERS
When the scooter companies arrived in June the Pacers Bikeshare program saw a 9.5% decrease in ridership. I'm not sure where they stand today but I’m sure they have seen even more decrease as time has gone on.
This is where I may be a little more biased. I'm a huge supporter of our non-dockless, organized bikeshare program and bikeshare programs across the nation. I opt to ride a bike over driving to most downtown activities. The Pacers Bikeshare program not only employs local people but they also have worked diligently with the city and the Cultural Trail to make Indianapolis bike-friendly. They take care of their bikes and stations with care and passion. In my opinion, they have done everything the right way. They have worked directly with the city to make it a better place and they’ve done a damn good job.
Then enters scooters, taking ridership and money from the bikeshare program and NOT working with the city (until they were forced to.) Why? Because their end goal is money not partnership.
WHERE TO NEXT?
E-scooters are currently in big metropolitan areas and smaller college towns, so where are they headed to next?
The biking and walking paths in Yosemite Valley? The bike trail in the Everglades? Around Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons? What’s stopping them? It doesn’t seem like they care about public green space in cities why would they care about our protected national land? This is where my mind goes and it frightens me!
I know there are so many worse things going on in the world but I do feel like I can make a difference and fight this battle. Unfortunately, I'm still trying to figure out how! I wish I had more of a platform to speak the truths about these companies.
If you want more information about how they are hurting other cities, follow the Instagram account called “Scootersbehavingbadly”. They share the scooter news headlines from across the country on their stories.
For Indianapolis scooter litter photos that will make you want to rip your eyes out follow "IndyScooterLitter" on Instagram.
I would love any feedback because I have been going back and forth and trying to reason with myself on if these scooters can be a good thing. I would also love any suggestions that you have on how I can fight this scooter war. Like I said before, I'm not looking to complain, I'm looking to do something!