I’m not a fan of scooters. Not the ones we had as kids or those Razors that were a big deal a few years back, but these new hybrid motorized ones that look like old-school scooters but throttle down the sidewalk like they own the place. The names vary — dockless scooters, e-scooters, or even bird scooters, which references the app used to rent and ride some of them.
Full disclosure: I’m an old skater — like from the mid- to late ‘70s. The Z-Boys of Dogtown fame were my heroes in early adolescence. So you could say there’s a little rebel in me since I still have my Sims 30-by-10-inch skateboard (technically a “Wall Board”) circa 1976 — designed for riding embankments, empty swimming pools and half-pipes. So before you call me a hypocrite, I want to clarify that I’m cool with wheels under people’s feet as long as they ride respectfully, but these scooters are a dangerous annoyance for a number of reasons.
By design or at least mechanically, they’re suffering from an identity crisis — they fall somewhere between the classic push scooter and a vehicle that practically has a gas combustion engine. I see people slaloming at high velocity on sidewalks and blowing right through busy intersections whether the light is green or red. So I blame society — many jurisdictions across the country have failed to put up any restrictions on their use, so anything goes.
Now the pedestrian in me doesn’t like the surprise of someone suddenly whizzing past me like some crazed banshee on a sidewalk (that’s why it’s called a sideWALK). One false move, and before you know it, someone’s hitting the pavement, ending up with a bad case of street pizza. Another problem is that because these e-scooters are rented for short periods of time, people use them and then leave them parked or lying on the sidewalk until someone else comes up and uses them again. So essentially, they litter the sidewalks because often there’s no designated place for them.
Then there’s the skater in me, who in solidarity with the larger skating community would feel discriminated against if these scooters were granted access to our sidewalks — especially since we’ve been told now for decades by society that we should ride only in properly designated areas. At least skating gives you a good workout; riding these scooters just further discourages people from exercising.
At this point we don’t see these things in Frederick, and frankly, I hope we never do. The good news is that the city placed a six-month moratorium on their use on April 1 and though it’s set to expire today, the Board of Aldermen could vote to ban them within city limits as early as the Oct. 3 public meeting. However, the issue could be revisited at some point in the future.
So, if you’re curious, just go to Washington, D.C., and see what it’s like — people zigzagging around, often they’re tourists wobbling along, only one synapse away from a total wipeout. This is no way to live. I would continue to urge our city leaders, community groups and local law enforcement to hold the line and stave off a potential onslaught of these scooters. Otherwise, given our smaller urban footprint, downtown Frederick will look and feel more crowded and less safe, and resemble more and more every other generic urban landscape that has succumbed blindly to this two-wheeled motorized anarchy.
Nelson Ginebra embraces unconventional wisdom, writes from Myersville and watches “Lords of Dogtown” at least once a year. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.