When “horseless carriages” were first introduced onto public roadways in the late nineteenth century, horse riders and pedestrians thought the end of the world had come. They were partially correct. The horse drawn transport industry had begun to be completely disrupted as this major paradigm shift took hold. No doubt the purveyors of Lime Scooters and other such contraptions are convinced they too are disrupting the transport industry and making the world a better place. But they are wrong.
Notwithstanding that history has shown that the proliferation of automobiles arguably did NOT make the world a better place; governments of the day quickly saw fit to separate vehicular traffic from pedestrians, which at least limited the amount of mayhem. But with injuries and fatalities from scooter accidents mounting up rapidly today, are we being a little too quick to embrace this latest fad? And it is indeed simply a fad. The notion that e-scooters are somehow good for the environment must be one of the more laughable marketing cons inflicted on gullible social media audiences in recent years.
Let’s be clear. Scooters do nothing to remove cars from the road or reduce carbon emissions. Riders are predominantly lazy hipsters who would otherwise be getting some much needed exercise walking around town or perhaps using local bus services. So public transport is therefore being denied revenue. Scooter power is being subtly woven into the fabric of our ever-growing culture of self-entitlement, by giving the finger to more leisurely and considerate users of public spaces. The message to those of us who previously enjoyed contemplative walks in peaceful settings is – get out of my way – I’m coming through!
This issue is actually a big setback for public health, not a step forward. Couple this with the skyrocketing cost of hospital admissions and ACC claims and we suddenly have a rising civic cost for this stupidity. Limb and hip fractures for an elderly person can be life changing, yet we are quite happy to insert these lethal two-wheeled missiles into our public spaces with little or no protection for walkers. Don’t even get me started on the implications of mixing our rampant booze culture with scooters.
It may already be too late for Auckland, but in Wellington we have fought hard for many years to build and preserve the freedom of public walking spaces, especially on the waterfront. The thought of these areas being invaded by high speed scooters is almost unbearable. The roll-out of e-scooters overseas clearly demonstrates that there will be accidents and that innocent pedestrians will sometimes be involved. Yet our legislators seem disinterested in putting any controls in place. Here’s why.
Ironically, the people who rave about e-scooters are the same people who failed to support locally owned bicycle sharing initiatives. Most politicians are in no hurry to address the invasive scourge of e-scooters for the same reason most of us who foresee the problem are reluctant to speak up. Contrary points of view are no longer tolerated in our politically correct world. Nobody wants to stand against something that is cleverly marketed by its American corporate owners as fun and cool. Perhaps there is a place for e-scooters somewhere in our world, but please not in the places occupied by young children and elderly folk and dogs and skateboarders and cyclists and parents with babies in prams. Those places are full already!
Paul Spence is a commentator and serial entrepreneur, a co-founder of New Zealand based technology ventures iwantmyname and Creative Forest and a mentor with Startup Weekends and Lightning Lab. You can follow Paul on Twitter @GeniusNet or sign up for a free weekly digest of startup, tech and innovation related events curated by him through New Zealand Startup Digest.