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Electric Scooters Are Not Worth It

The implementation of electric scooters a year ago seemed promising. Who wouldn’t want transportation that decreased our carbon footprint and also had us avoid walking long distances?

The e-scooters of the likes of Lime, Bird and, soon after, Uber and Lyft quickly became a popular alternative to public transit such as the MARTA trains, buses and even regular Lyfts and Ubers. 

E-scooters have raised a few eyebrows in recent months since their initial release. Shortly after e-scooters were on the streets of Atlanta, strict rules and regulations were put in place to control electric scooter usage. 

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However, some of the most important rules have proven to be ineffective, the most well known being a law that prohibits electric scooters to be ridden on sidewalks, which is constantly broken every day. This is because there are not many bicycle lanes available in the city, and people fear riding along with busy traffic, so people ride on the sidewalks where it is supposedly safer for them but not pedestrians. 

Scooters are a safety hazard in multiple ways, most of which involve riders and pedestrians. In the span of just a year, dozens of students and Atlantans have gotten seriously injured because of electric scooter crashes, either because the riders fell off, or a pedestrian walking to and from class had gotten trampled by a reckless rider.

Back in early 2019, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that Grady Memorial Hospital received an increase in patients due to the scooters, which “estimated it receives between 80 and 100 scooter-related injuries per month, ranging from serious head injuries to broken limbs.” 

Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten better. Scooter-related deaths have grown in recent months. Since May, three riders have died from head-on collisions with buses and cars. Mostly recently, a fourth life has been claimed after crashing with a truck. 

The Atlanta City Council could not deny the increasing safety risk these electric scooters posed. What was once a code enforcement issue is now a law enforcement issue. The outcome from these unfortunate deaths have even pushed a ban on electric scooters at night between 9 p.m and 4 a.m.

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Riders on school campuses in particular are known to ride the scooters incorrectly.  Students have been seen riding two or sometimes three to a scooter, racing down sidewalks. 

Aside from the potential dangers that electric scooters bring to riders and pedestrians alike, the initial appeal, their supposed environmental friendliness is, at best, no better than the other forms of transportation it is replacing, and possibly even worse. A study conducted by the North Carolina State University engineering department found through taking an e-scooter apart and testing it themselves. The report revealed that while the actual ride itself is not creating much of a carbon footprint, its manufacture is. 

“We found that the global warming impacts associated with the use of shared e-scooters are dominated by materials, manufacturing, and automotive use for e-scooter collection for charging,” according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.  

At least if e-scooters were to be on the roads, our minds could be at ease knowing that we are taking a positive step in the right direction against global warming. This recent study, however, negates that entire argument. 

Even from a company’s perspective, e-scooters have become much more of a liability than a profitable venture. In combination with the strict regulations, e-scooters, such as those provided by Bird, Lime, Uber and Lyft, only last about three to four months, sometimes just shy of a single month in some U.S. cities.

Caleb Floyd, a Georgia State student who formerly was employed as a Bird charger, attests to the fact that Bird scooters are found damaged and even reported missing.

“It would take hours to find a scooter on the map,” Floyd said. “After you find the scooters, you realize they are broken to the point where the system wouldn’t even allow you to charge them.”  

Particularly in Atlanta, e-scooters are usually busted up or hanging from trees. This is definitely not conducive to making money off of e-scooters. 

Ben Coletta of The Signal quoted Lime representative Nima Daivari in Vol. 86, Issue No. 16 of The Signal, who spoke in favor of e-scooters and lessened regulations in Atlanta, at an Atlanta City Council meeting on Jan. 7, 2019.

“Please do not enact legislation that only disadvantages those of us that are either trying to make the world a greener place or, simply, cannot afford the luxury of car ownership,” Daivari said. 

While good-intentioned, some companies agree that these added regulations are more of a hindrance from progress to bettering the environment. 

The cost of keeping e-scooters and competitors on the streets are increasing. Many cities are requiring upfront fees that were not initially in place amidst the launch. According to The Verge, some cities demanded Bird and Lime among others to pay $15,000 extra. Bird had to enact transportation fees of $2.00 and unlock fees ($1.00) and combat the wages dictated by city councils just for having e-scooters on city streets. 

These demands are putting strains on companies and causing their rates to increase, negating the value of choosing e-scooters over other modes of public transportation. 

A one-way trip taking the MARTA train is $2.50; the Atlanta Streetcar’s ticket fares are only $1.00. To bridge the gaps between the station and your destination, you can also take the MARTA buses. 

While not as glamorous, your mind can rest at ease knowing that you’re spending about the same amount of money as a potential ride of an e-scooter.  These fees are only set to increase over time due to the regulations that are added every couple of months with more financial strain that is put on competitors. 

With the known dangers e-scooters have on people and the environment, it is not a mode of transportation that is worth it for all parties involved. The riders, the companies and their investors and the rest of society are all paying unnecessary costs. 

This article was updated at 2:40 on Sept. 18, 2019, to correct the context around the quote from Lime representative Nima Daivari.