To the editor:
As someone who relies on their e-scooter regularly to get to and from the Metro – I’m the one with the pink helmet and purple Mohawk – I recognize that at this point there are two types of people in Old Town: those that ride scooters and those that hate scooters. There have already been some well-written pieces highlighting safety issues and the lack of guidance and regulation of e-scooters in Old Town.
That being said, lack of guidance continues to be an issue impacting motorists, scooter riders and pedestrians. In fact, pretty much the only actual scooter laws regulate operator age and not riding on sidewalks. Yes, even helmets are not required by law. However, with a little courtesy exercised by both motorists and scooter riders, the issues resulting from lack of formal guidance can be minimized.
First off, let’s be real. A scooter is essentially a bicycle when it comes to street riding. The speeds are commensurate, and the rider is in an equally bad position if they get hit by a car. Therefore, I have to believe that if we have made bikes work, we can make scooters work.
What motorists should understand about scooter riders:
1. On Alexandria’s narrower streets, there is insufficient room to pass a scooter rider if there are cars parked along the street. Accept that you may be stuck behind a slightly slower moving scooter for a short period rather than attempt a risky pass that pushes the scooter rider into parked vehicles.
2. Some of Old Town’s streets are so rutted out that scootering on the far right portion of the road is not feasible. Again, exercise some patience and caution.
3. Please stop yelling at us to ride on the sidewalk. That is pretty much the only thing we aren’t allowed to do.
Scooter rider responsibilities:
1. If there’s traffic waiting at a four-way stop, be courteous and allow the vehicle a chance to go through. Speeding through a four-way stop on a scooter as if there is no other traffic is not courteous and is potentially dangerous.
2. If conditions allow, move over to the right to allow faster moving vehicles to pass. However, do not sacrifice your own safety to do so, if road conditions or obstacles like parked cars prevent adequate clearance.
3. If you must cross a sidewalk with your scooter, do not engage the motor function. It is much slower and more controllable when used as a regular scooter, as well as much less of a hazard to pedestrians.
4. Helmets are not required by law but a good idea. I think I’m the only person I’ve seen scootering with a helmet. It will probably only take one death to greatly accelerate the push for an all-out scooter ban.
5. Park your scooter in accordance with city regulation and in scooter parking areas where available. Old Town is a great walking city. Don’t ruin it.
In conclusion, scooters are new and going through growing pains. Still, speed and capability wise they are similar enough to bikes that they should be able to assimilate into our local transportation system. I, like others, am frustrated by the lack of guidance and bike lanes. But if we all exercise some common sense and patience we can make it work without official government guidance.
-Phil Shapiro, Alexandria