You've heard the news: e-scooters are back. The year-long pilot program will have new rules, aimed at fixing the most frequent complaints from last year's five-month long experiment with e-scooters: sidewalk riding, nonexistent helmet enforcement, and bad parking.
Starting April 26, the city allowed up to 2,500 e-scooters back on the streets, a number that could theoretically increase to a maximum of 15,000 next year if companies meet incentive requirements. In the meantime, based on an extremely unscientific and highly suspect method of looking at the number of angry faces versus heart eyes emojis on Facebook, we've concluded that the city is evenly split over whether this is the best thing to happen to Portland EVER or the beginning of the end of the city as we know it.
Unsurprisingly, Portland Monthly's editorial staff is just as divided internally. When scooters were mentioned recently, our staff Slack channel flared up with all the anger, elation, and pathos of a Facebook comment section. I surveyed the staff for their reactions.
PRO, ALL THE WAY!
Fiona McCann, Editor at large
I love scooters: they take up less space than cars, they have a smaller environmental impact than cars, and they're a cheap way of getting from A to B. (Yes, bikes are an even better alternative, as are feet.) I have used them when I might otherwise have considered a Car2Go or a Lyft. Do people sometimes misuse them? Well yes, and that's not good, but when people misuse cars, it's also bad—arguably worse— but nobody removes the cars from circulation as a result. In short, if it makes our air easier to breathe and our city easier to navigate, I'm pro. Bonus? They're fun.
Me, Senior Digital Editor
Helmets, sobriety, traffic laws. These are definitely things scooter riders should consider incorporating into their future trips. But unleash the scooters, Portland! If we're all so suddenly keen on enforcing two-wheeled traffic laws, can we find a way to stop the Tour de France cosplayers from running every red light they see?
Rebecca Jacobson, Arts Editor
I was on a weeklong vacation when scooters swarmed Portland's streets last July. When I returned, I gasped at what had transpired during my absence. What fresh hell is this?! I yawped, scowling at these mini-motorized menaces. But as the days passed, the cute li’l vehicles grew on me. Riders wore smiles so catalogue-worthy you could count their molars. They shared the bike lane. Not that many scooters ended up in the Willamette! And I finally hopped on myself, zipping to pick up my bike from the shop or whooshing home from a MAX stop—and it was delightful.
PRO, WITH RESERVATIONS
Molly Woodstock, Digital Content Editor, Sagacity Media
Ultimately I'm pro-scooter because they're better than cars!!!!!!!!!! (A PBOT survey found that a third of scooter-using locals and half of scooter-using visitors would have used a car if the scooters weren't around.) But I'm sure some of that is negated when all the (severely underpaid) "juicers" drive around collecting the scooters to be charged overnight. Also, I never personally ride them because I'm 100% sure I would eat shit. (And the stats back me up on that, too, with nearly 200 scoot-related ER visits last summer.)
Polly Zel, Marketing & Event Manager
If the scooter companies would focus on outreach; teach people safety, distribute free helmets or make them easy to find (like they originally promised in some of the scooter apps) it could be a strong and fun program. Perhaps they should flood the city with brand ambassadors every weekend who show people how to ride safely and share the streets, and give away lots of helmets.
Benjamin Tepler, Associate Editor
I hate it because I don't understand it.
Brian Breneman, Deputy Art Director
It's a classic Silicon Valley grift—"go fast and break stuff"—where they collect our money and data while offering a few lucky 'contractors' a starvation wage to make sure an Instagram influencer doesn't run out of battery in the middle of their sponcon post. Need more reasons to hate the scooter? They lose money on every trip, they have no real framework for dealing with liability and they'd lose the majority of their service if they actually enforced their TOS. IF they actually found their way into neighborhoods where people need them, it'd be one thing, but as it stands now they're toys for people who can already afford multiple transportation options.
Margaret Seiler, Managing Editor
I can say that the only thing worse than the scooter riders who don’t know the rules are the ones who don’t know the rules but think they actually do.
Ramona DeNies, News & Travel Editor
I'm suspicious of altruistic messaging invoked by VC-backed start-ups like Lime and Bird. (In my past life, I worked in a venture capital-adjacent field.) Vague statements about social, environmental, or economic empowerment, these aren't why investors invest: it's the promise of fast cash that does it. It seems to me that these companies are literally banking on cities like Portland to underwrite the safety costs (and users to assume the liability). There's nothing empowering about huge medical bills.
Mike Novak, Art Director
I’m going full GET OFF MY LAWN YOU WHIPPERSNAPPER here. Scooters, I hate em. They’re a safety hazard, people mostly riding on the sidewalks illegally, and then when they do ride in the streets they zip in and out of traffic with none of the care of cyclists. They’re environmentally backwards, with short life lith-ion batteries in low quality scooters that are made cheaply and designed to fail after a relatively short time, thus adding to landfills. They support the gig economy model of charging, further eroding the idea of people being paid a living wage for work. I have zero faith that any city agency will enforce the laws designed to protect pedestrians, in the same way I see people driving and using their phones constantly with no consequences. And they are being foisted on us without any real public vote, which makes me automatically against them.
Kelly Clarke, Editor-in-Chief
Scooters make me feel like Morales in Chorus Line. I can't even muster up a good froth of irritation at them. I'm straight up beige-on-tan neutral on the topic.
Eden Dawn, Style Editor
Official status is neutral. Just don’t leave them crashed over in the middle of the sidewalk like a jerk. And BE SAFE. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.