“Scooter horror is coming to Gainesville!”
I saw that comment on Facebook. Oh, the humanity!
Soon there will be e-scooters strewn across the sidewalks all up and down Main Street. Anti-scooter vigilantes will be tossing them into Depot Park’s ponds.
And the carnage!
The Associated Press reports at least 11 e-scooter deaths since the beginning of 2018.
“Andrew Hardy was crossing the street on an electric scooter in downtown Los Angeles when a car struck him at 50 miles per hour and flung him 15 feet in the air before he smacked his head on the pavement and fell unconscious,” AP reports.
Having miraculously escaped death, Hardy concluded “These scooters should not be available to the public. Those things are like a death wish.”
Wait a minute. Shouldn’t the takeaway here be the absolute insanity of any motorist in any downtown in any city being able to drive 50 mph?
Still, nearly a dozen e-scooter fatalities in a year and a half sounds serious.
Until you consider that, In 2017, more than 40,000 people died in motor vehicle collisions. Including 6,000 pedestrians and cyclists.
Oh, and bike-ped deaths are on the increase even as traffic deaths in general have been declining. People inside cars are safer than ever, while those on the outside grow more endangered with each passing year.
We’ve seen this movie before. Pedestrians are just distracted jaywalkers, no wonder they’re getting killed in record numbers. Cyclists are reckless rule breakers, so pity the poor motorist who accidentally runs one down. And now lawless scooterers (scooterists?).
Here’s what its come to: We routinely give 90 percent of the public transportation realm (roads, streets, highways) to mostly single-occupant motor vehicle use. And everybody else – walkers, cycles, people in wheelchairs and now on scooters – must cram themselves into the narrow slivers (sidewalks, shoulders) along the edges.
And that’s even presuming there are slivers available to cram into. Often there are not.
No question there are legitimate issues to be resolved regarding e-scooter and e-bike use. Who should be allowed to share sidewalk space or bike lanes and who should get precedence therein? And how do you control e-clutter in ride-share situations when the things can be picked up and dropped off anywhere a respective user cares to begin and end?
All of that conceded, the bottom line, whether one’s personal mobility device of choice be scooter, bicycle, skates, pogo stick or just good old fashion shoe leather, is the same.
We have deliberately designed our public streets for the convenience of people who encase themselves inside fast and powerful motor vehicles. Gainesville’s signature street, University Avenue, is a prime example.
We design everything from lane width to speed limits to intersections to pedestrian crossings to curb cuts to turning radius with the primary intent of enabling traffic to flow as quickly and as efficiently as possible through the urban landscape. Because being forced to stew in traffic is the closest thing to a cardinal sin in autoAmerica.
So now e-scooters are coming to Gainesville. Sound the alarm and hide the children.
But if this innovation city is serious enough to hire a Director of Mobility (yes, I’m looking at you, Malisa McCreedy) we need to give a lot more than lip service to the notion of “complete streets.”
The personal mobility revolution is coming. Is Gainesville ready for it?
(Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Follow his blog at floridavelocepe.com)