San Diego Scooter Impound battle offers ideas for improving scooter hygiene


A fun battle is underway in San Diego between Bird and Lime and a "Repo Man" who is impounding scooters left on private property. Lots of nasty accusations on both sides, but this is an interesting idea in the quest to make the parking of micromobility scooters nicer. In this article, I outline some of the issues in doing that, particularly when there will be fraud and sabotage and cheating from all parties, and even 3rd party "haters" who today try to interfere/sabotage scooters for non-business reasons. Is there a way to make it work?

Read all about in in my article Scooter Impound Battle in San Diego May Help Improve Scooters.


Cheap to deploy, with a constellation of external costs and encumbrances not borne by the deployers.

Disclosure, not disclaimer.

Scooters are single track vehicles like motorcycles. They travel at close to the same speed as a motorcycle in the city. The kinds of injuries we are seeing from scooters are very similar to the kind of injuries seen from motorcycles. The motorcycle community has reduced the number of accidents and injuries there with the motorcycle safety training course. If we want to make scooter riding safer, we should require riders to take such a training course, wear protective clothing including helmets, carry insurance, and a license.

Even before dockless rental scooters, there was a debate on where the scooter (kick scooter or seated) sat between the bicycle, e-bike, larger scooter and motorcycle. I don't think they will get treated as the latter.

People are looking at solutions when it comes to helmets, including foldable and even possibly inflatable. Of course, people walking around town don't and won't carry helmets, so you have to figure something out -- or accept the lower safety. (We often accept lower safety for more functionality in transportation of course. If we didn't, we would not allow motorcycles at all.) The safety of others is a much bigger deal.

Scooters are ridiculous efficient in energy and road space. I mean it's astonishing; there is nothing like them. With more efficient recharging, we're talking maybe 30 wh/mile when the New York Subway is around 160 per person, I think.

I think most agree that if you required training, protective clothing, helmets and licensing, there would never have been Lime/Bird/etc. That doesn't mean that once they are underway and proving themselves that safety can't improve, though clothing requirements are very difficult to solve.

Granted, training and licensing won't stop stupidity but it significantly reduces it.

If we are going to accept lower safety in exchange for more functionality and ridiculous energy efficiency, I would be okay with that if the scooter riders were always at fault in any accident unless they are licensed, trained, use a helmet and carry insurance. Under current motor vehicle laws, if a bicycle or scooter rider causes an accident with my car because of carelessness, lack of training, or road conditions, I am automatically at fault.

It may not seem like it but I really do love to wheeled vehicles. I especially love recumbent bikes like the ones made by linear recumbent. I would love to learn how to ride an electric scooter safely but what has stopped me is a design shortcoming of the scooters. Size 15 feet, 6 foot tall. On the scooters I've seen, the foot platform is too small and the handlebar is too short by a couple of inches. The too short handlebar contributes to balance problems. If the rear wheel braking mechanism is a friction lever you step on, the short footbed makes it difficult to position your rear foot so you can step on the rear wheel brake pedal with any degree of speed or precision. I hope scooter designers start moving the rear brake control to the handlebar where it belongs.

This brings us to a couple of issues that I think requires training. Safe braking is one of the things motorcycle training teaches you because improper braking is a significant cause of accidents. see: The physics are the same for both scooter and motorcycle and the operator training should be the same as well.

The other skill that's important to train for is counter steering. It's not intuitive. People swear that shifting body weight is enough for taking turns but, actual testing shows it's not. You can turn faster and sharper with counter steering then you can by shifting your body weight. Trying to steer a scooter the way you steer a car is a great way to cause an accident.

Unlike others, I would carry a helmet because bike helmets has saved me from concussions a few times. I've seen the fallout from traumatic brain injury twice in my family. The inconvenience of carrying a helmet is nothing compared to lifelong brain injury.

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