By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
A five-month pilot program for an innovative transit mode debuted in Chicago June 15, with all the fanfare expected. As a transportation guy of some renown (well, at least in my own mind) I believe this new option has the potential to truly be a game-changer and improve the way people get from here to there.
Yes, but for the program to work, the City must form a sound strategy to ensure this novel way of getting around is safe and equitable, and compliments the current transportation network.
The subject at hand: The dockless electric scooter program, which allows riders the option to download an app and, well, scoot away for a ride, then park the device in a “proper” location that does not impede pedestrian traffic, provide a hazard to those in wheelchairs or block entry to homes and businesses.
This recent report from the online source Curbed Chicago states that some 60,000 electric scooter rides were taken during the first week. Obviously, there was a demand and interest.
Like with most things new, there have been challenges. I’ve witnessed the following:
- While strolling on Milwaukee Avenue last week, I observed a young woman scooter rider who apparently hit a pothole, causing her to fall. She rose with a bloody nose, but was able to continue her ride.
- On a quiet Sunday afternoon, I observed a quartet of spirited scooter riders engaged in a circular “catch me if you can” game at the intersection across from our home. They later sped away, traveling against traffic on a one-way street.
- And, throughout my neighborhood, I’ve seen scooters parked inappropriately on sidewalks and lawns or left flat on the pavement. Reports have shown scooters propelled into trees or flung into park lagoons.
Other news sources report riders have sustained injuries that require medical attention. Given the warm-weather weeks ahead, one can anticipate more scooter-related injuries, hopefully none serious.
In a laudable attempt to help my home city, I offer the following scooter-centered thoughts for the Mayor’s office to consider. These strategies, goals and objectives have roots in effective public relations practices.
- Make scooters a safe, accepted and affordable mode of transportation in Chicago.
- Expand the scooter network to neighborhoods that could benefit from shared micro-transit options.
- Explore scooter programs in other cities — U.S. and overseas — to learn what worked, and what did not.
- Collaborate with transit service bureaus, associations and community groups for ways to incorporate scooters into existing transit options.
- Build awareness for the value scooters can make in enhancing mobility and alleviating “last mile” issues.
- Cultivate acceptance of scooters as a legitimate transit mode; address need for safety and improper scooter use.
- Work toward making the pilot program permanent in 2020.
There are many tactics that could advance this plan, but that’s for another post. Back to the above, what would you add?
Two final thoughts:
- The dockless program already has resulted in some chaos. For the program to work, there need to be docking stations, like Divvy bikes.
- Electric scooters can be “fun” to ride, I suppose. But scooters must have a higher purpose — reduce cars on the road, help people reach destinations not available by public transit, provide mobility for those who need assistance.
Okay. Now it’s time for me to scoot. Figuratively, of course.