There are a lot of ways to get around these days: personal cars, public transit, ride-sharing, traditional cabs, bikes, skateboards and, increasingly, electric scooters. These convenient and relatively inexpensive transportation options are popping up all over cities and college campuses, offering people a faster way to get from A to B, while saving their shoe leather.
For scooter riders, they are quick, convenient and cost-effective. Hence the fast-growing popularity. But for many other people – drivers, pedestrians, and those who offer other modes of transportation – the scooters, and their riders, are a reckless nuisance. Some of the stories being written about them are reminiscent of anti-skateboard commentary from previous decades. A combination of “not in my backyard” and “get off my lawn.”
But, where skateboards were largely considered a “youth thing,” and other forms of electric conveyance, like Segways, were treated as novelties, the concerted effort promoting negative messaging against electric scooters seems to be gaining steam.
Scooter ride-sharing options are now in more than 100 major cities and many college campuses, taking the benefits of these options directly to the target market. Big name companies from Ford to Uber are also getting into the game, investing heavily in specific scooter-sharing companies.
But not everyone is happy. Unlike other rented or shared transportation, there’s no central place to pick up or drop off these scooters. People just leave them when they’re done, which has resulted in what residents in some cities are calling both “pollution” and “safety hazards.”
Some people are so sick of seeing the scooters, there are a growing number of news stories reporting residents tossing scooters in the trash, in ditches and even in lakes or rivers. These stories, of course, make for compelling reading and viewing, especially in local news media. But scooter enthusiasts and promoters say the negative news is stifling what could be a serious contender for solving an ongoing and growing problem: urban transportation.
Scooters, they say, offer a reliable, consistent way for people to get around bigger cities or large college campuses, without adding another vehicle to already overcrowded streets. This is what scooter-sharing companies want the media to be talking about: the benefits of the scooters. To get there, they have to help opinion makers push past the low-hanging fruit of the spectacle of someone’s neighbor chucking a scooter in the pond behind their house.
That there will be a narrative is a given. The e-scooters are too obvious, and are becoming too ubiquitous, to ignore. So, people will be talking about them. For the scooter companies, what those people are saying is paramount. If the stories are all about random strangers “getting rid of” e-scooters, the public will read them as an annoyance, but if the companies can shift the narrative to happy people helping ease pollution and road congestion, they will set themselves up to get a win.