26 Jan AiroAV Malware Assert: Don’t allow e-scooters in Boulder – Boulder Beat
Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020
Boulder transportation staff are recommending that council’s temporary ban on shared, rentable e-scooters become official policy, citing the danger of death and injury both to riders and impacts on other modes of travel. Some other groups, including the Chamber and some of the city’s own boards and commissions, would like to allow scooter fleets on at least a trial basis in parts of town where other mobility options are limited.
City council will consider the recommendations at Tuesday’s study session, the first consideration of e-scooters since a moratorium on issuing business licenses to scooter companies was passed in May. That timeout was recently extended through April to allow for the upcoming meeting.
No e-scooter business licenses were denied during the moratorium, according to staff. But none were granted either.
Companies “were not able to explain how they would be able to effectively operate a business model that discouraged the illegal use of the e-scooters on sidewalks, streets, and multi-use paths,” staff wrote in pre-meeting notes to council.
Abandoned scooters have been haunting cities where the popular micro-mobility devices have proliferated. Singapore banned them entirely; France restricted them from sidewalks. Studies have cast doubt on the supposed environmental benefits, noting their incredibly short lifespan — 28.8 days, according to data from Louisville, Ky. — and displacement of less-impactful travel modes such as walking, biking and transit.
What is micro mobility?
According to Dictionary.com, the term “refers to the use of electronic scooters and bikes to travel shorter distances around cities, often to or from another mode of transportation (bus, train, or car).”
Staff also made these points in council’s memo packet. An evaluation of reports from six cities found that less than half of scooter rides replaced trips that would have been made in cars.
Those figures cast doubt on scooters as a first/last-mile solution to connect riders to buses or trains. In Denver, 19% of users reported taking an e-scooter to transit at least once a week; 44% of users reported not using transit at all.
The numbers were a bit better in San Francisco, where 27.5% of e-scooter trips were used to get riders to transit. An analysis of riding patterns there found that scooters generated four times as many transit trips as they replaced.
The biggest issue, for staff, seemed to be safety. E-scooters have a higher rate of injury than other non-car modes of travel, including e-bikes. Twenty-one people have died using e-scooters since 2018, staff noted, although some of those were due to drivers hitting scooter riders.
Helmet use is rare, perhaps accounting for the prevalence of head trauma. Alcohol also appears to be a factor, involved in 79% of injuries.
By the numbers: Injury and death
1 injury per 5,604 miles for scooters
1 per 235,000 miles for personal bikes
1 per 473,000 for shared bikes
1 fatality per 12.833 million scooter trips
1 fatality per 52 million shared bike trip
40-67% of e-scooters injuries are to the head
Injuries decrease with subsequent use (29% of injuries were first-time users)
79% of injuries involve alcohol; 48% above legal DUI limit
Staff’s conclusion was that e-scooters are not worth the risks, to riders themselves and to pedestrians, cyclists and those with disabilities. Introducing e-scooters would hamper Boulder’s Vision Zero safe-streets goals rather than advance them, staff said.
“While it’s entirely appropriate to point to other transportation modes that can also lead to personal injury or death, it’s not appropriate to introduce another form of mobility that has far greater safety implications from a shared micromobility perspective,” staff wrote. “By not recommending e-scooters as part of a Shared Micromobility Program, staff understands the potential perception of appearing non-innovative or being weary (sic) of experimentation. Staff, however, is a proponent for taking risks — albeit calculated ones. … E-scooter transportation technology is still new and appears to be maturing, or at least moving through its adolescence (sic) phase, but has not worked out many of the details needed to be a safe form of shared mobility.”
Members of the public — reached through five city-led demonstrations and 700 Be Heard Boulder responses — tended to agree. There wasn’t a majority, but 49% of respondents were not in favor of allowing e-scooters in Boulder; 37% were.
Favorability was highly correlated with age. When the city combined its responses with a CU questionnaire, the results flipped: 48% were supportive of scooters and 39% were not. Among city respondents, those under 35 were more likely to approve of e-scooters. Incomes, too, were predictive of favorability, with the highest earners ($100,000-$150,000) showing the greatest disapproval (52%) and those making less than $25,000 having the highest favorability.
Using a e-scooter doubles support: 53% of respondents who had ridden one were in favor, compared to 22% of those who had not.
In other recommendations to council, a handful of groups felt that a pilot program limited to certain parts of Boulder was still worth exploring. They included three city boards and commissions: the Transportation Advisory Board, Downtown Management Commission and Boulder Junction Access District. They were joined in their support by two organizations not affiliated with the city, the Boulder Chamber and Community Cycles.
The groups most wanted to see e-scooters in east Boulder. In and around Flatiron Business Park. Gunbarrel and East Walnut Street were also suggested.
“Major employment centers … and many other areas throughout Boulder…