If you’ve been in Denver recently, you’ve probably noticed the small army of electric scooters clogging city streets and sidewalks. After Lime and Bird deployed literally hundreds of dockless scooters with only a few days’ notice, Denver Public Works threatened to impound the lot of them, branding the scooters a menace to public safety.

Small wonder–with no docking stations to worry about, users were leaving them all over the city, freely obstructing sidewalks and trails. Weaving through traffic without helmets also proved quite popular. Can these scooters be safe? Legal? And how do they work, anyway?

Want To Ride? Theres An App For That.

To use one of the scooters, a user unlocks it with an app on their phone, rides it to their destination and then leaves it for the next person. The first 30 minutes cost $1, with further use priced at 15 cents per minute. The scooter company then picks up the scooters overnight and redeploys them.

That’s the theory, anyway. Unfortunately, the reality has been much messier.

Where To Ride: Mixed Messages

Denver Public Works has issued statements on the scooters, saying that people can’t ride them on city streets (except to cross intersections), bike lanes, trail systems or in city parks. This leaves sidewalks as the last remaining venue.

However, this contradicts directions from the scooter companies themselves, who encourage bike lane use and specifically discourage sidewalk riding. Who should you believe? No one’s quite sure.

Common Growing Pains

Denver isn’t the only city that’s experienced a bumpy rollout of scooter ridesharing–similar stories have come out of Los Angeles, Miami, Austin and Washington D.C., among many others. San Francisco booted them out entirely, creating a permit process that all scooter-sharing companies must now go through before their fleets are allowed back in the city. Obstruction of sidewalks was a key bone of contention.

An Uncertain Future

Dockless electric scooters–especially the shared variety–are fairly new, so cities don’t have regulations in place to deal with them. City councils and mayors are hammering these out as we speak, but until clarity comes to Denver, we can expect more confusion and uncertainty. Maybe Denver will ban them forever. Maybe we’ll adopt a permitting process, as other cities have done. Maybe pedestrians will be required to wear full body armor at all times, since a scooter barreling towards you at 15 miles per hour can cause some serious damage. We’ll see.

In the meantime, anyone strolling down the sidewalks of our fair city had better watch out. The public isn’t exactly known for erring on the side of safety.

Source: Denver Post, “Electric-scooter sharing company Bird lands in Denver but city puts up stop sign“, Accessed on June 5, 2018

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