09/15/2019

Are Scooters A Transit Solution Or A Trojan Horse For Big Tech To Colonize Our Public Spaces?

Summer is here and the electronic hum of scooters is filling city sidewalks all over the world. From L.A. to D.C., many American downtowns have hit their one-year anniversary with scooters, and European capitals have begun to allow them.

The benefit is obvious: Scooters provide on-demand, affordable mobility to any able-bodied smartphone user. As the vehicle’s fan base grows, however, so do the frustrations that provoke other urbanites to detest them — abandoned scooters left on walkways and even scooter-pedestrian collisions. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says escalating tensions are leading to “anarchy” on her city’s boulevards and footpaths. And an even bigger issue looms over arguments for and against this revamped child’s toy. Scooters may well be the Trojan Horse with which big tech colonizes the world’s public space.

Scooters (and dockless e-bikes) inhabit cities like few other consumer products ever have. Through location-tracking and app-based transactions, scooter barons oversee their business from a distance while storing their entire inventories on our streets and sidewalks for next to nothing. When in use, scooters generate revenue for Bird, Lime or some other “micro-mobility” company. When not in use, they just sit there, wherever there happens to be: a bike lane, a doorway, a neighbor’s front yard. Citizens have no lawful recourse, leading some to resort to micro-vandalism.

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