One Size Doesn’t Fit All


One Size Doesn’t Fit All

It never hurts to be reminded that our personal experience can strongly affect our opinion of new ideas. The other day, UK Correspondent Peter Guest send a summary of activities at the Temecula Parking Group think tank. In it he poo pooed the concept of electric scooters (toys, he noted, dangerous toys at that).

Over at Astrid has led with an article takes the opposite view: “Four major reasons Electric Scooters will Transform our Cities.” It makes for interesting reading. But I digress:

Seems the sceptered isle has outlawed the critters (birds) and Peter agrees that they are useless and dangerous. To wit:

Scooters, i.e. electrically powered kids’ toys, as a transport mode are completely unknown to me, so I apologise for not getting the point. If I understand correctly, these vehicles are available to hire by the hour/mile, in some places, as a competitor to rent a bike schemes. I could see that in say a university environment they would be fashionable but travelling any distance on such vehicles would seem pretty unattractive. Safety issues are obvious and apparently, they are already being excluded from sidewalk use in some jurisdictions. Miniscule numbers of such vehicles in use in Europe and the UK has banned use on the public roads. I wonder also how popular these will be when the weather gets worse?

One could take this position on many things we now take for granted. Cell phones used to be the size of bricks and frankly didn’t work all that well. ATM’s took the ‘person’ out of banking (when was the last time you actually went into a bank.) Take Amazon – no one will replace the department store – I need to touch and feel before I buy. Just how many actually read paper books – I now have Shakespeare on my iPad. Records? Purists will tell you that the sound is better. Find someone under 30 who has actually seen a record.
When something new appears, we tend to hold on to the past. Our desire is not to change. “If it was good enough for mom and dad, its good enough for me.” We find reasons why it won’t work, can’t work, or doesn’t work. Most new things need a shakedown.

Electric scooters had initial problems when introduced. The companies used the “easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission” technique in dealing with city governments. They quickly learned that they could be more effective if they worked with governments. Their intention was not to travel long distances, but to solve the ‘first mile, last mile’ problem. They are a solution that fits some lifestyles, but certainly not all. Just as riding a bicycle might be de rigour in Amsterdam, it may not be so popular in Chicago in January.

Will scooters take off in climes that actually have a winter? Doubtful, but certainly they seem to be popular in areas where shorts and tee shirts are worn at Christmas.

If anything came from the Temecula group it was that ‘one size doesn’t fit all.’ Lime and Bird, the founders of the electric scooter fad, may or may not succeed. However, from my experience, in Southern California, they seem to be popular with a young (over 18) set that use them for short hops. And why not? I’ll stick to Uber and Lyft, but then these scooters don’t fit my lifestyle. They are fun to watch, and from what I can see, fun to ride. Just another ‘thing’ that will either go the way of the hoola hoop, or with a change here and a tweak there, may become the next greatest transportation movement. Time will tell.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

4 Responses

  1. You could be right and so could I, who knows. After all H.G Wells one of my heroes and greatest thinkers about the future of technology of his day whilst being well ahead of the curve on aviation, see “The War in the Air” written in 1907 ,condemned the submarine as being useless, pointless and would never work.

    One thought though, I am seeing stories about the problems of these systems; and the imposition of limitations and restrictions to address the very problems that stopped them here. Not seeing too much about growth. But then maybe I am reading the wrong papers.

  2. There are always stories about problems. If it bleeds it leads. Why write stories about successes? We are a strange lot. We love to read and talk about failure, but seldom about successes. My credo on stories in the papers is to believe exactly the opposite and you will be right most of the time.


  3. Oh, and one more thing. The comment above is not to say one can’t be critical, or have opposing views, – they make the world go round. But just because something doesn’t work, FOR ME, doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else. My frustration is that governments tend to talk in absolutes. We outlaw murder, because all murder is bad. Fair enough. We outlaw electric scooters because they are dangerous to some. Where does it end?

  4. I find it very interesting. It was not too many years back we used to look at the proliferation of bicycles, scooters and rickshaws in big cities as the quaint hallmark of third world countries. Here in North America, we were proud of getting around our growing metropolises (or, metropoles, or metropoleis, – depending on what part of the urbane world you happen to hail from) in our bloated SUV’s and stretch limos (that required two or three tries to turn a tight city corner, – if the turn was even legal!), until gridlock started to shut everything down. So what have we turned to for a solution: bicycles, scooters and rickshaws! One of the last times I was in NYC, up at Sixth Avenue and W. 45th Street, I couldn’t find a taxi no matter how hard I tried (admittedly, this was before the advent of Uber and Lyft), so I hopped into the front seat of a bicycle-driven rickshaw that scrambled through the traffic to Penn Station in an incredible 11 minutes! Cost me $63.00, including tip, but I caught a train I had to catch, and made an appointment I had to keep. Had I been unfortunate enough to have secured a taxi (or an Uber, it they had existed), the same trip would have taken at least 30-40 minutes; would have cost about 2/3 less; but would have scrapped my schedule. But, the downside of this ‘un-evolution’ back to archaic modes of transportation in major city centers lies in the fact that ambulances also can’t get through the traffic to collect the poor souls whose rent-a-bike or scooter conflicted with the path of a bus or delivery truck (or rickshaw, either, for that matter: the way we scrambled through the lanes of traffic down 7th Avenue to Penn was like a squirrel trying to dodge between the tires of an angry taxi driver, – exhilarating, but not the way to hang on to your hair!). Yet, one after another, parking lots in the Big Apple (and every other major city) get turned into 60-story (storey ?) skyscrapers, so that more people can converge on these cities… with their bicycles?

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