A needed market correction

A needed market correction
(File photo)

Alexandria’s e-scooter program is teetering and appears ready to topple. Good. 

We’ve expressed skepticism about this program for five years now for numerous reasons – the foremost being that e-scooters are simply unsafe. They’re also unsightly, a nuisance and, as today’s page 1 story “Dockless disarray” indicates, unprofitable. 

Thankfully, it appears that the market is going to correct what’s been a significant policy mistake in Alexandria, as the current stock price of Bird, the city’s largest scooter provider, is around 5 cents. 

It’s been the height of hypocrisy from the start that this program has been foisted on resistant residents – particularly in Old Town – in the name of safety. What, exactly, is safe for either pedestrians or scooter riders about unhelmeted, often underage, riders blowing through intersections without stopping? 

Nowhere on the city of Alexandria’s Dockless Mobility webpage does it tell prospective scooter riders what the requirements even are for riding a scooter in Alexandria. What’s the age limit? Is a driver’s license required? Can people ride tandem? Are helmets required, or even recommended? 

Remarkably, not only is there not a set of rules regarding the use of scooters in Alexandria listed, the above questions are not even included in the frequently asked questions on the page. 

Cities are increasingly reconsidering their e-scooter programs, most famously in Paris, where residents voted overwhelmingly last year to ban the devices. 

Alexandria’s government cites the Vision Zero initiative whenever it wants to make changes to our roads that make it more difficult to drive automobiles. Alexandria’s stated goal through Vision Zero is to eliminate all deaths and severe injuries related to traffic by 2028. 

Do our city leaders honestly expect to further this goal by allowing unhelmeted e-scooter riders going 15 miles per hour to share city streets with 4,000 pound vehicles? Worse, Alexandria police rarely stop scooter riders for violations. 

A Bird executive said her company pulled its operations out of San Diego last year in part due to that city’s “onerous regulations.” A perusal of San Diego’s iRide website shows nothing remotely “onerous” in its requirements. In fact, most of San Diego’s requirements sound the same or more lenient than those in Alexandria: Riders must be 18 or older – though riders as young as 15 can ride if accompanied by an adult – e-scooters in San Diego can go a maximum of 20 miles per hour and a driver’s license is not required, but a photo ID is. 

The big difference? San Diego requires e-scooter riders to wear helmets. According to iRide San Diego, “All riders’ will be provided with a helmet and must be worn when rental period begins.”[sic] Oh, and San Diego also fines companies for policy violations. 

Not only does Alexandria not require helmets, they are not even recommended. Alexandria’s fiscal year 2024 Dockless Mobility Annual Work Plan includes several photos of e-scooter riders, none of which are wearing helmets. The Dockless Mobility homepage includes no mention of helmets. 

The experts are clear that e-scooter riders are at significant risk of head injuries. 

“Most e-scooter injuries have typically been fractures, sprains, and head injuries. Head injuries have been a significant concern, particularly among riders not wearing helmets,” the Traumatic Brain Injury Information Hub, tbi. com, states. 

We conclude with this excerpt from our June 20, 2019, editorial: 

“The kindest phrase we can find to describe the city’s transportation philosophy – which purportedly prioritizes safety – is ‘wildly contradictory.’ 

If making our streets safer governs all of our street-related decisions – which is what city officials repeatedly use to justify decisions that make it harder to drive cars in Alexandria – then this scooter program is a non-starter. 

So are we going to get rid of these dangerous toys that have invaded Alexandria, or are we going to finally admit that safety isn’t really our priority?”