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Dockless Electric Scooters and the Ethics of City Design

Photograph of several dockless scooters on an area of pavement with a sunset sky in the background

One of the surprising trends of 2018 was the rise of dockless electric scooter rental companies like Bird and Lime. Like Uber and Lyft in the ride-hailing market, Bird and Lime have taken their market by storm, moving into one hundred cities each and tallying millions of rides within a year—often without the approval of local regulators and municipal officials. The scooters are convenient, easy to use, and apparently very popular, but their arrival has been accompanied by numerous problems and opposing voices. Business owners and pedestrians complain about the scooters accumulating on sidewalks and in front of storefronts. Emergency room doctors have noted the high risk of injury associated with the use of the scooters, including two fatalities. As was the case with Uber and Lyft, many cities have resorted to bans on the scooters, at least until appropriate legal regulations can be put in place. The controversy surrounding these scooters is part of a larger question about cities and street design: who has the right to the use of streets, and how should street design and transit infrastructure reflect this? Continue reading “Dockless Electric Scooters and the Ethics of City Design”