To the editor:
As city council debates whether to extend the e-scooter pilot program, members should focus on the key question addressed in the Times’s October 10 editorial: “Should the e-scooter pilot continue?”
How are people using the vehicles? Primarily to travel the “last mile” to and from work, or mainly for fun? Rider usage data cited by the Times indicate the latter. If those are the facts, there is no compelling policy basis to extend the program.
The current debate appears to assume it is immaterial how riders use the vehicles provided there are stringent operating rules and strong enforcement measures. But effective enforcement is an illusion.
The small cadre of police officers currently dedicated to enforcement can catch only a fraction of violators. Raising per-violation fines on scooter companies as some have proposed would fund only a marginal increase in the number of officers with a negligible impact on safety.
Enforcement issues aside, council members must squarely address the threshold question: Why as a policy matter should the city bear substantial enforcement costs – and its residents and visitors incur injury risks of any kind – if e-scooters are mainly for fun? Alexandria and its historic district are not an amusement park. If, as the data show, the vehicles are used mostly for joy rides, the risks and costs cannot be justified.
-Edward A. Lenz, Alexandria