I believe in 2012 we’ll see the rise of the ‘Scooter Commuter’. At least that’s what I want. We’re sitting here, talking about global warming, the rising cost of gas, pollution, traffic, and how badly we need electric vehicles. Little do most people know, we ALREADY have tried and true electric vehicles, the batteries don’t explode, they don’t cost a fortune, and pretty much anyone can afford one. I bought one and used it shortly before having to return it due to a local ordinance in Orlando making it illegal to ride them on the street or sidewalk.
(Electric powered bikes can also be included in the car-free revolution, however, they have gears, chains, and are more complex to maintain. There’s a higher chance of falling off of one due to the rider being situated further away from the ground, and bikes are actually bigger and take up more space.)
If you’ve ever been on one. You will fall in love with them. You can travel 10-12 miles at the speed of a bike (10-15mph) without having to pedal. Simply charge them up at night and they’re ready to go in the morning. In the last 10 years they’ve really started to take off due to better battery technology allowing them to go further, high gas prices, and unbearable traffic. However, people in most cities are afraid to buy one because they can’t find out if their municipality legally allows them. They get mis-classified as motor vehicles like mopeds and vespas (so they’re banned from sidewalks) but don’t have lights and a license plate (so they’re banned from streets) which means you could call every lawmaker you know and no one can tell you for sure if they’re legal in your area.
Who can be a scooter commuter?
Anyone who lives within 4 miles of their job. So “a lot of people”, not “most people” but still enough to make the movement significant. Why 4 miles? Because the higher end $400 scooters have a range of 12 miles. If you want to be able to get to work and back at the maximum 15mph speed you’ll need to live within 4 miles. If you’re able to charge up your scooter while you are at work then you can afford to commute 7-10 miles.
Can the average commuter take advantage of this?
The average commuter travels 16 miles to get to work so most people don’t live within scooter-able distance (4 miles). However, their shops, grocery stores, schools, cinemas, and friends are usually within range.
But what about sticking to bikes?
You get all tired & sweaty and going uphill is a pain in the legs. Yeah it’s healthy but look, people don’t like getting to work in the morning exhausted and soaked. Also, there’s just some things about humanity that we can’t change. We are hard wired to do as much as we can with as little energy and movement as we can. With a scooter you can travel as fast as a bike without moving. There are electric + manual powered bikes though.
5 Steps to Encourage Mass Adoption
- Introduce legislature to formally separate electric scooters (small wheels, 10 – 15 mph max, avg speed of a bicycle, lightweight, can be picked up) from mopeds and vespas (20 – 40 mph, heavy, big wheels). Lawmakers keep confusing the two and using electric scooters to describe mini-motorcycles. Laws overlap and the electric scooter doesn’t get the fair legislature it deserves.
- Create motorized scooter friendly laws that allow them to be driven on sidewalks and bike paths just like bikes, personal mobility vehicles, and segways. Yes the sidewalk. Oh stop bitching! No one’s on the sidewalk anyway I only saw 2 freaken people jogging the other day. Besides, drivers HATE bicyclists on the road. It’s safer for everyone if they stayed on the sidewalk. Run commercials to educate the public to let them know they are legal in their area.
- Widen sidewalks where needed (at a fraction of the cost of widening roads), especially in urban areas and town centers.
- Construct bike paths between strategically chosen commuting points like job centers, business and industrial parks, shopping centers, and residential neighborhoods.
- Encourage businesses to install more bike racks and provide surveillance coverage to the areas where customers will be leaving their scooters and electric bikes. These are $200 – $400 each. You do NOT want a customer’s bike being stolen in front of your store. Cover the racks from the rain if you can.
You can even install high capacity scooter racks on the front of buses to compliment the public transit network.
Advantages To Building Bike Paths For Scooters
Bike paths are much cheaper than building roads, adding extra lanes, or installing HOV lanes on highways (which don’t seem to help according to studies). Bike paths require minimal land to get started, are easy to maintain, and construction is a fraction of the cost of alternatives like light rail and street cars. The paths themselves don’t need to be concrete or have deep bedding because the paths will be free from heavy commercial vehicles. The lack of traffic lights, road reflectors, speed limit signs, and lane marking also helps keep the initial cost of construction down. Making it one of the most affordable options for cities and towns.
Low. No heavy vehicles means no vibrations, cracks, and potholes. No gasoline means asphalt lasts longer and doesn’t constantly need repaving (gasoline breaks down the tar in asphalt that keeps the rocks together). No traffic lights, no speed limit signs, no reflectors, and no lane markings are needed (although they can be added). These are all things that the city won’t have to worry about maintaining, making it a VERY attractive offer for tax payers who don’t want to get bitten by long term costs.
1 paved lane of road (1 direction) is about the same width as 4 lanes of bike path (2 directions with 2 lanes each). This alone is what makes bike path installation so much more lucrative than adding on more lanes to a road at a cost of millions of dollars each mile.
Environment & Health:
Adults and children living near busy roads and highways have a risk of developing cancer and asthma. I’ll just leave that fact for you right here . It’s no surprise too, inhaling burned gasoline, motor oil, and heavy metal fumes can never be good for you. Simply put, our cars are literally killing our families and neighbors.
Much safer than cars. Electric scooters are not only limited to 7-15 mph max (well under the speed of a bicyclist) but the scooters themselves are only 15-30 pounds. Assuming .01% of the population is suicidal, I’ve estimated that 99.99% of citizens would rather be hit by a 35 pound electric scooter than a 2 ton SUV. Braking distance is much shorter which means less accidents and because of the small nature of the scooters you never have to worry about a driver passing out and crashing into your living room, killing your family. Just a reminder, 30,000 – 50,000 people die each year in the US due to car related accidents. That’s like a full blown war or massive natural disaster every year or the world trade center attack/collapse happening 13 times each and every year. Show that statistic to your over protective lawmakers when they start complaining about how unsafe they think electric scooters are. Also, because you’re sitting or standing lower to the ground on a scooter it’s a LOT harder to fall off a scooter because it’s so much easier to balance one.
Smaller vehicles and slower speeds mean more people can travel closer together instead of being spaced apart, thus increasing capacity. One highway lane can carry 2,500 commuters per hour while 1 bike path direction (at max capacity but everyone still traveling in a single file line) can carry 3,000 – 4,000 scooter commuters going 10 – 15 mph.
Very Low. If you’ve ever ridden one you’ll notice how quiet the motor, tires, and air turbulence sound is. Communities with yards that border bike paths won’t need sound walls.
Cost per Mile (Fuel):
Car = $0.8 – $0.10 cents per mile.
Electric Scooter = $0.002 cents per mile.
If it costs 1 cent per mile for a 3000 watt full blown heavy electric motorcycle (40 mph) then our 750 – 1000 watt scooter (15 mph) would be around $0.003 cents per mile.
Major Economic Stimulus:
Buying a car costs $5,000 – $30,000 and about $6,000 – $10,000 a year for gas, insurance, maintenance, and other factors. Buying an electric scooter is $200 – $500, a fraction of the cost, making it affordable for anyone. Assuming you bought brand new tires and a new battery for your scooter every year you’d still only spend a max of $100 – $150. Which includes the cost of electricity if you drove your scooter 12 miles every day of the year and recharged it every night. That’s a savings of at least $5,500 – $9,000+ every year. Now that’s a stimulus that keeps on giving.
Disadvantages To Scooters
Not Weather Proof:
Rain. The minute it starts to rain, it’s back to the cars. Then again, the cost savings of building a bike path compared to a road might afford the authority to cover the entire bike path with outdoor canvas to keep bikers and the scooter communter out of the rain.
The invention of the car gave way to the invention of the car accident, ships gave way to ship wrecks. Airplanes enabled plane crashes. Accidents will happen. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is guaranteed.
Humans Being Stupid:
Many bike (half a million each year) accidents and electric scooter accidents are mostly attributed to kids younger than 16 riding GAS powered scooters that go upwards of 20-40 mph. Just like with bikes, kids and adults need to be educated as to how to avoid winning a Darwin award. I’ve almost won one myself MANY times.
Sometimes slower than cars (but faster than bicycling)
They can be just as fast or faster than taking a car up to certain distances/time of day/neighborhoods (due to it being easy to find a parking space and not getting stuck in traffic as well as being able to cross small to medium sized intersections without having to wait for the traffic light). For most people though, when riding a scooter during the non rush hour period, will take longer to get to work than with a car. Still it’s much faster and less exhausting than bicycling.
Why Electric Scooters are Illegal in so many Cities
Because they have motors, and we in America are bureaucrats, they are classified as motor vehicles and are not legally allowed on the side walk. Because they don’t have lights, blinkers, and license plates they cannot be ridden on public roads either, which means they are restricted to your drive way or a private road. Bullshit, I know…
This law is different everywhere you go. In Seattle scooters on the sidewalk are alright, in St.louis you can drive them on the road, in Florida scooters are hated with a passion. It’s against the state law to have one on a public road or sidewalk.
Most police have never encountered them and aren’t sure of the rules in their municipality. I live in St. Louis, MO now (Afton, St. Louis County) and according to the state of Missouri, they are classified as motor vehicles, are street legal, but generally shouldn’t be on the side walk. Each municipality has it’s own rules. Now there’s no way in hell I’m riding a scooter in the street, so I called up the police department and 2 other departments to ask what the penalty was if I was caught with one on the side walk. No one could tell me, no one knew, and no one really cared. So it’s safe to say you can ride them wherever the hell you want, it’s just like a bike only motorized.
Want to get a good scooter?
http://www.samsclub.com/sams/shop/product.jsp?productId=prod4950168&navAction= This is the kind that I got down in Orlando, it was awesome and I miss it dearly. I used to put on a cape and ride around on it. There’s basically 2 major companies that make them, Currie which makes the Ezip line, and Razor.
If you are someone of importance with influential connections in your local city hall please email this link to them. The more cars we get off the road the more lives we save and less oil we burn each day.
Copyrighted photos used under fair-use for educational and non commercial purposes.