My View | Denise Dunbar: Get that scooter off my sidewalk

My View | Denise Dunbar: Get that scooter off my sidewalk
(Photo Credit: Missy Schrott)

Part 1 of 2

Frequent readers of the Alexandria Times know that during 2019 this newspaper has exhaustively reported on scooters in our city. In fact, some people have said they’re exhausted from our coverage.

“Why devote so much ink to an inconsequential issue?” I’ve been asked. Other times, people express gratitude that the paper has given voice to their concerns.

So, plunging headfirst into overkill, I’m wrapping up the Times’ 2019 coverage with a two-part column on scooters. This week has a big-picture focus, while next week
I’ll delve into the data.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about scooters this year – and not just
when I’m removing them from the sidewalk in front of my house. I think many people, particularly in Old Town, are vocally opposed to scooters as much for what they represent as for what they are.

Those complaining loudest about scooters have generally lived in Alexandria a long time. My husband and I moved to the city right after grad school and have been here 33 years. We’ve seen Alexandria and Northern Virginia change dramatically during that time.

Traffic congestion on the region’s main roads has gotten consistently worse, and parking in Old Town and Del Ray progressively more difficult. Many long-time residents feel like we’re under as- sault from the city’s leaders. Those decision makers are increasingly younger people – city staff, members of boards and commissions and our young city council.

They appear to not know, and seem not to care, that many of us moved to Alexandria before Old Town was genteel or Del Ray was hip. We’ve paid many thousands of dollars in property taxes into city coffers in the decades we’ve lived here – money that has funded city schools, capital projects and city staff salaries. Yet increasingly we feel that our voices aren’t being heard.

In decision after decision, city council and city staff have worked to prioritize new development over everything else, including the livability of the city’s neighborhoods. Most recently, they’ve foisted road diets and, yes, scooters on the city, both of which appear to be little more than costly fads.

Forget whether scooters are fun, safe, vibrant or a transportation tool. When I moved to Old Town, it was for the architecture, history and quaint cobbled streets. The slogan was “Don’t Georgetownize Old Town.” I most emphatically did not sign up for scooters.

When I come out of my house and find a scooter parked on the sidewalk, it feels like an insult. I take it personally, and it’s clear many others feel the same. It’s wildly offensive to have one’s personal space invaded by a disruptive presence.

Residents weren’t asked whether we wanted scooters in our city, in our neighborhoods or on our blocks. They’re emblematic of the city’s increasing disregard for the wishes of its residents.

The fact that essentially none of the rules regarding the first pilot program have been enforced makes it much worse. And the minor tweaks in the proposed second pilot also have no real enforcement mechanisms. So we can expect more riding on sidewalks, which endangers pedestrians, riding by children, riders ignoring stop signs and so on.

Scooters are a disaster waiting to happen, not just to the riders but to innocent pedestrians and their pets. It’s not a matter of if, but when someone is seriously injured by a scooter in Alexandria.

If city council allows scooters to remain, then council will own the consequences, both legal and moral.

The writer is publisher and executive editor of the Alexandria Times.