It's time to take back the streets from all the cars and make room for alternative modes of transportation.
Electric scooters, those tiny, non-polluting and fun tools for getting around San Francisco, have effectively been banned. TreeHugger emeritus Alex Davies explains in Wired that they were "infuriating."
People ride them on sidewalks, weaving around pedestrians or passing them from behind without warning. Because they can park them wherever they like, they leave them in the middle of the sidewalk, where they get in people’s way and make getting around even harder for those who have trouble walking or use wheelchairs.
But as we have often noted, dockless cars are carelessly strewn on sidewalks, blocking crosswalks and wheelchair ramps. Alex helpfully notes that not a few cyclists and pedestrians are jerks too. And he has a solution:
What to do? Make the street a safe space for scooters. This part’s easy, and it looks a lot like what San Francisco and other American cities have finally started to learn. The answer is bike lanes: big, wide, protected bike lanes, and lots of them. The way to make them is to take away curbside parking—that shared space that car owners get to take over, often for free—and use the space to make the streets safe and convenient for everyone who wants to ride a scooter, or a bike, or a one-wheel, or whatever ridiculous thing comes next. While you’re at it, make the sidewalks wider too.
Indeed, this entire scooter war comes down to the never-ending battle over the sidewalk. We have noted many times that cars have squeezed pedestrians off the streets and made it almost impossible to walk; it is also impossible to scooter or bike, leading to constant conflicts between users. On a Facebook page called Walking Toronto, we are told that bicycles in Toronto are like scooters in San Francisco:
"Cycling is not an essential activity. You need a bike in this city, like you need a wristwatch. Both are fashion choices made by people who desire those things, for their own reasons. Moreover, the perception of cycling as an alternative to auto transportation is vastly overstated."
No, bikes are not a fashion choice, and neither are scooters; they are alternatives to big metal boxes that take up too much space in the city and their users have as much right to the real estate as cars do, and should be encouraged, not challenged.
Writing in the Guardian, former cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan complains that politicians are making promises but not delivering. He claims that the Mayor's inertia and feebleness are embarrassing. In Toronto, according to the Star, activist Albert Koehl complains “Now nothing is happening. Those plans are just stalled,”...."it’s “shocking” how little has been done and how little is planned for this year in terms of increasing cycling infrastructure. And in New York City, there is an entire Tumblr devoted to documenting cops parking in bike lanes- the infrastructure for bikes is essentially a parking lane for placard holders.
It seems that turf wars are everywhere, and that the drivers of cars always win. I saw a great tweet the other day:
Street analogy:— ric_man (@TheRicMan) June 1, 2018
A car driver, bicycle rider and a pedestrian are sitting around a table, which has a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The car driver takes eleven of the cookies, then turns to the pedestrian and says "Watch out! That bicycle rider wants to steal your cookie." 🤔
Except we are not even fighting over cookies. We are fighting over crumbs. Instead, we should all be working together to take back the streets.