San Diego has lots of dockless scooters and bikes, but at this year’s Comic-Con, they’re causing a disaster.
Scooters or bikes that riders can pick up on the street and rent using a companion app are a fun idea. They allow for a faster way to get to a destination that’s a bit too long of a walk yet not long enough to justify hailing a cab. But they’re now so easy to pick up that plenty of people who clearly shouldn’t be grabbing the scooters and bikes are taking them for a ride and leaving them wherever they want.
Over 135,000 people are inthis year, and as it stands, that crowds the streets and pathways around the San Diego Convention Center. But now that at least some of them are grabbing the scooters and bikes without paying attention to the rules of how to ride, I’m seeing riders attempt to bike and scooter their way through congested crowds as if they were still walking among them. They’re zipping in front of pedestrians, parking the vehicles on small sidewalks, blocking pedestrian pathways, and — shudder — attempting to put two people on the scooters and riding right by.
Oh, and very few of them are wearing helmets. Not only is street pollution a giant issue here at this massive geekfest, but people disastrously driving scooters and bikes is proving a safety hazard.
And San Diego isn’t the only city grappling with issues like these. Up the coast in San Francisco, electric scooters from several companiesfor a brief time from March through May. While many found that the scooters offered a way to commute around town faster, others experienced and declared it a public nuisance.
The companies’ scooters, with the city declaring the companies needed permits before continuing business. As of June, being offered by San Francisco.
I’ve reached out to electric scooter and bike companies Lime, Bird, Ofo and Mobike to ask about their strategies for dealing with this year’s Comic-Con, and most of them have strategies for the event.
Lime and Ofo have included messaging within their app about Comic-Con’s parking restrictions, and Lime said in a statement that anyone who’s breaking its terms of service can be reported to local authorities. Lime also has a cosplaying Lime-themed samurai on the ground promoting the service.
There are no such warnings in Bird or Mobike, but a Bird spokesperson said the company is working with local officials during Comic-Con and has “deployed a safety ambassador team to move Birds to approved locations around the convention center and interact with visitors so they understand the existing rules in place.”
To research this piece, I tried an electric scooter to see what it’s like to ride around Comic-Con, and my first impression wasn’t smooth. My initial attempt to use the Lime app on Thursday hit the brakes quickly because the Android version wouldn’t let me scroll through the list of terms I needed to accept, preventing me from being able to agree to them. A Lime customer service agent told me to update the app, but I am using the current version of it. Similarly, it took a few hours for Bird to accept my driver’s license during registration, as at first the app told me it was rejected for being “too blurry.”
By the evening, I was able to take a Bird scooter out for a drive on Market Street on my way to Petco Park. I quickly realized, due to the lack of a bicycle lane, that riding in the street the whole time wasn’t going to be all that safe, leading me to pull over to the sidewalk several times to walk with the scooter until more space along the side of the road opened up. All in all, my 15 minute walk was shortened by a mere four minutes.
To be fair,, and these scooters and bikes might be a great idea during the rest of the year when congestion isn’t as intense. But I do hope these companies improve how non-riders can report abuse of the scooters and bicycles, maybe with a giant number on them that people could memorize like a license plate.
For now, to those Comic-Con fans hoping the scooters will help them get a cheap and speedy ride from the Marriott Marquis to Petco Park, please consider wearing a helmet.
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