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A call to embrace scooters

Chron business writer Chris Tomlinson is a fan of scooters.

Photo: Josie Norris /San Antonio Express-News

After years of riding bicycles in traffic, I’m comfortable riding a scooter on the street where they belong. I find them a convenient and environmentally-friendly alternative to automobile congestion. But I’m in a distinct minority, according to new polling by Zpryme, an Austin-based research and events firm.

About 72 percent of Americans do not want electric scooters in their neighborhoods, according to the survey of 1,500 U.S. consumers. More than half of Americans believe that electric scooters are unsafe.

Only 5 percent of those polled have ever ridden one.


The scooters’ average top speed is 20 miles per hour, and the range is about 20 miles. An electric scooter performs about as well as the average bicycle commuter, but without sweating.

Zpryme’s survey of scooter users found most trips were less than a mile and cost less than $10 nationwide. But a substantial number said they routinely use scooters to travel up to 5 miles.

About 70 percent said they ride scooters for fun, according to the poll, and in San Antonio tourists use them for sightseeing. More than half said they use scooters because they are faster than walking, and a third use them for a daily commute to work. Last year, scooter users made 38.5 million trips in just a few dozen cities.

Because they are electric and consume little energy, the environmental benefits of scooters are substantial. A person on a scooter also takes up much less space on the road, which helps relieve congestion.

As long as they are banned from sidewalks and there is a plan in place to ensure that abandoned scooters do not hinder the mobility of others, especially disabled folks, then I can sign onto this. I still have my doubts about the scooter sharing industry as a business model, and I’m still not convinced that they’re safer on the roads for the rider than bikes are, but I do agree that they can play a role in various urban areas to reduce car trips. And they are coming to Houston whether we like it or not, so let’s try to make the best of it.

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  1. mollusk says:

    “Banned on sidewalks” isn’t working out all that well with the B-Cycle riders downtown, are probably the same demographic. Adding speed to that is not a good look.

  2. mollusk says:

    “who are…” (smh)

  3. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    “About 70 percent ride scooters for fun.”

    The streets/sidewalks are not playgrounds. No thanks.

  4. Joel says:

    Good effing luck. Those things are a blight. Go downtown Austin, stand at an jntersection, and you can count hundreds of them parked all over the sidewalk, taking up space. The ones being ridden are a hazard to pedestrians and to themselves. I just had a guy in a scooter cut in front of me to cross the street in full speed traffic. I just about dented my own windshield stopping to avoid him.

    But a business writer likes them. Go figure.

  5. Jason Hochman says:

    Well why doesn’t Chris Tomlinson want to keep riding his bicycle. I ride to work and am going over 20 mph a lot of the way so the scooters are not as efficient. Sweating is good for you, it cleans out toxins. The bicycle has zero emissions and no batteries made from some carcinogenic cancer which then need to be recharged with coal generated electricity.

  6. matx says:

    Just as Uber did not quite live up to its financial hype when it went public, scooter-sharing companies are likely to struggle once the VC money runs out. Companies like Lime rely on people signing up to pick up the scooters, recharge them, then place them at places where they will be accessible to riders–the reimbursement for this service is flexible and not fixed.