Ridesharing has expanded beyond Uber and Lyft into what is known as “shared micromobility.” This now encompasses bike-sharing and scooter-sharing, with scooters seemingly popping up all over the place, as they were in many cases dropped overnight in cities across the country.
According to a report by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), between 2017 and 2018 the use of ridesharing has more than doubled across the country to a total of 84 million trips. Almost half of the increase in rides is attributed to scooter usage, with more than 85,000 scooters now available for rent in the U.S. in over 100 cities.
Scooter rental cost is quite reasonable, and can easily be a cheaper alternative than other transportation services for short distances. The average cost is $1.00 to unlock the scooter and $0.15 per mile thereafter. The rider downloads the app associated with the scooter vendor, enters credit card information, scans a driver’s license and unlocks the device. Once they are done riding, they use the app to lock the scooter and leave it — hopefully — in a relatively safe place. In addition, riders have to attest they are 18 years of age or older to use the device.
However, scooters are often found on sidewalks or along the road, which can be troublesome, especially if they are knocked over (and like dominos, when one goes down, they all do). Scooters don’t come with helmets either, meaning a rider has to be prepared, or is forced to ride without any protective gear.
This is all great for adult riders, but what about when kids skirt the rules and ride them anyway?
Arlington, Va., which has a population of just over 230,000, is 26 square miles in size, and is located just outside Washington, D.C., embarked on a pilot program to study scooter usage once the devices appeared on city streets. Now, with over seven companies providing scooters in Arlington, the two main struggles have become how to dissuade younger riders from using them, and how to enforce the ban prohibiting their use on trails and sidewalks.
Scooters are often seen parked outside schools and are frequently seen being used by students, especially at the high schools. Scooters move quickly and riders often weave in and out of traffic, especially during congested travel periods like school dismissal. Added congestion at school dismissal only compounds safety concerns, and scooters are another way that the safety of all students can be compromised if schools and communities do not plan accordingly.
Even if scooters aren’t in your community today, they are likely in the neighboring areas your buses travel to on field trips, and they may even be in your community tomorrow. Being aware and ever-vigilant can only help your drivers to ensure continued safety.
Here are some tips that you as a transportation professional should consider if scooters are in your community:
• Ensure the school districts you serve have a scooter policy.
• Confirm that students and parents are informed about the policy.
• Educate your drivers on these devices and encourage them to watch for them during their travels in general and at peak travel times in particular.
• Work with your school board and school leadership to educate them about the safety concerns of these devices.
• Make sure there is a place to deposit and store these devices at the schools you serve that is at least located away from the area your school buses primarily use.
• Be mindful that neighboring communities you travel through on field trips may have scooters and ensure your drivers are aware of their impact on traffic.
• Review current scooter usage and plans your locality has for these devices frequently, or as changes warrant.