The problem with scooters isn’t that we have too many — it’s that we need thousands more

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Our city has about 500 dockless scooters, but we need thousands more.

The Charlotte Department of Transportation is running an electronic scooter pilot program to collect feedback on rentable scooter services. The pilot program, which ends in October, allows a maximum of 300 scooters for participating companies.

Currently, Lime and Bird are both permitted to deploy up to 300 electric scooters. Spin has not yet deployed any scooters in Charlotte (although they’re coming).

Side note: Bird is seeking to raise money at a $2 billion valuation, even though they’re a young company. Smart money is investing in scooters and they’re unlikely to go away.

bird-dockless-electronic-scooter-in-charlotte

Agenda related story: Step-by-step guide to riding Charlotte’s new rentable scooters. If you’re into the financials behind the scooter economy, here’s a TechCrunch analysis that walks you though the economics.

Given that we only have about 500 scooters and most are in Uptown and South End, dockless scooters are currently more of a novelty than a consistently reliable transportation option.

As our city grows, we need to decide if want to continue to be so damn car dependent. If not, it’s time to take scooters seriously.

And let’s be honest, if you’ve ridden a scooter — they’re freaking awesome. I don’t know another way to describe it other than riding a scooter around town is just fun.

Some scooter takes cry for regulation, complain of texting and scooting and advocate for helmets. There’s nothing wrong with these nerdy takes, but they’re just missing the point.

Yes, we need to regulate scooters. You’re supposed to ride them on the roads, but everybody uses sidewalks.

Yes, people shouldn’t text and scoot. Duh. People also shouldn’t text and drive. Or drink and drive. But cars are still out there. At a certain point, we have to accept personal responsibility.

Yes, helmets are a good idea. Especially since many Charlotte drivers are used to owning the roads and don’t give a crap about bikers and scooters.

But overall, these takes are missing the larger picture — a liquid, dockless scooter market has the opportunity to take thousands of cars off the road and ease traffic congestion in Charlotte.

According to data from the DMV, Charlotte is home to 401,460 vehicles. Mecklenburg County has 808,870 total vehicles. We just love our cars.

What happens next with scooters?

City Council and CDOT staff will collaborate on the evaluation of the pilot program and determine the next steps. I’ve been impressed by CDOT’s lean startup-ish approach here.

According to CDOT, at the end of their current electronic scooter pilot program (October 2018), one of the following outcomes will likely happen :

  • Prohibiting rentable scooters in the public right-of-way.
  • Creating regulations that would allow multiple scooter companies to operate in Charlotte.
  • Hiring a vendor and developing a city-owned scooter program.
  • Extending the pilot program to provide more time to evaluate Charlotte’s options.

Let’s hope that this November, instead of laughing at scooter novelty and letting the program die, thousands of scooters are cruising our streets — filling the gaps between our destination and existing public transportation infrastructure.

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Ted Williams
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Publisher, golfer, dad and magician (seriously).