An open letter to Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki:
This may come as a bit of a shock, but I’d like to ask for some aggressive business regulation in one particular area.
Specifically, I hope you and your colleagues on the Wilmington City Council will resist Bird, the Santa Monica, California-based electric scooter-sharing company.
“High-tech trash” is what my wife calls them, after we spent about 10 days in both San Diego and Providence, Rhode Island, navigating against their usurpation of public sidewalks and street crosswalks.
Frankly, in a word, it was “awful.” Add a second word, and it was “hazardous.”
On its website, Bird says it operates electric scooters in over 100 cities throughout North America and Europe with 10 million rides in its first year of operation. It was founded less than 2 years ago in September 2017.
I’d heard a bit of the controversy around Bird scooters, and their commercial counterparts, from my millennial son Andrew, who with his wife and son live in a hip neighborhood of San Diego. He’s a cyclist and part of the movement of young people moving back into cities to live, work and play.
Leaving Wilmington, where he graduated both Cab Calloway School for the Arts and the University of Delaware, he first settled in Washington, D.C., for its urban amenities. Then about five years ago he moved to San Diego, also for its amenities. He’s actively involved in urban planning in his Ocean Beach community.
It was Andrew who first told me about the invasion of motorized scooters, which you rent via a credit card-secured account for a few minutes and discard at the end of the ride for the next rider.
The city of Wilmington regulates vehicle storage on public property, and I pay about $1 hour to park my little roadster next to the sidewalk. These scooters get thrown about on public sidewalks like so many gum wrappers, with no parking tariffs paid to the city for their use of the public right-of-way. At the same time, we’re forced to navigate around them, watching every step.
Emergency rooms in cities where e-scooters have taken hold are reporting a significant traffic increase in visits from unprepared riders who fall off or pedestrians struck in the process.
Call it “urban rage,” Mike, but after nearly falling from a stumble while trying to walk around these last week in Providence, I almost picked up one or two of them and threw them off the bridge into the canal in Providence. I’m still sitting here contemplating whether I should have, whether it would have represented a new form of “urban social justice.”
It’s likely unusual in any area to have a businessman and former business publisher call for increased regulation, but consider this a “warning shot” across the bow, based on one person’s experience.
I’m not anti-multi-modal in transit. In the last week, I’ve traveled by train, plane, car and Uber. My young adults are avid cyclists. I still have an M on my license for motorcycles, although it’s been a couple of decades since I’ve ridden. I’ve even been known to walk.
But these things represent not only a public annoyance but a hazard, as well.
In a word, Mayor Mike: “don’t!”