After reading about the reaction of the press when a driver hit someone using an e-scooter, I couldn’t help but be reminded of some of the initial responses to the Uber collision in Tempe when the company’s self-driving test vehicle killed a pedestrian. The police and some of the media tried to pin the blame on the victim for crossing at an undesignated area, without recognizing how hostile the roads were designed for pedestrians.
Last Saturday, Jenasia Summers was hit and killed while riding a scooter
by a driver high on heroin in Cleveland, and again the media took to casting scooters as a safety hazard when the streets are similarly hostile to anything but cars and the driver was clearly to blame. Summers did nothing wrong.
Summers was riding on East 9th Street, which runs through the heart of downtown Cleveland. The street is set up purely for motor vehicle movement, with six moving lanes but no bike lanes. If the city had provided dedicated lanes for people riding bikes and scooters, Summers would probably still be alive.
If the goal is really to shift mobility to more efficient modes — like bikes and scooters instead of cars — we need to stop blaming them for problems they aren’t causing. Is there an issue with operators throwing scooters and bikes into cities without first consulting local governments to figure out the best way to do it? Of course! But that doesn’t mean they’re a safety hazard — and certainly not a bigger one than the cars and trucks dominating the streets.
Scooter companies, being regulated much more quickly then they expected after trying to follow Uber’s ride-hailing strategy, are trying to rehabilitate their image
by providing money for bike lanes, reduced fares for low-income people, and charity donations. That’s more PR than a real change to their strategy, and we shouldn’t oppose regulation; we should welcome governments finally accepting their role after letting Uber and Lyft get away with doing whatever they wanted for so long.