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THE ARGUMENT

Should electric scooters be allowed on local streets?

YES

Heather Hamilton

Heather Hamilton
Heather Hamilton(Allana Taranto)

Member of Brookline Select Board

If you had told me a few years ago that I could download an app on my phone that would allow me to request a ride from a complete stranger, I would have laughed. Now, I request a rideshare on a regular basis.

If you had told me a few years ago that I could download an app on my phone that would allow me to unlock a bike and ride it to another place without returning it to the original location like a Zipcar, I would have said, ‘How is this even possible?’ That is why I am no longer surprised when I see new transportation modes.

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In the past year, shared electric scooters have seen faster rates of adoption than either rideshare or shared bikes, a recent study found. My roommate started using a scooter to get from our apartment to Longwood Medical Area. It cut her commute time in half. She can use the bike lane and avoid slower pedestrians. She doesn’t have to shower when she gets to her destination. Also, she was never taught how to ride a bike. Shared scooters are a fraction of the cost of rideshare and because they are dockless they find their way into underserved communities.

According to a recent user survey in Portland, Ore., respondents indicated that if a scooter hadn’t been available for their trip, 34 percent would have used a personal car or a rideshare. That is astounding. People are giving up a combustion engine for an eco-friendly alternative. For 1-2 mile trips, this method is ideal, especially at peak times when traffic averages less than 15 miles per hour anyway. If we are to meet our ambitious goals on carbon neutrality, this could be one puzzle piece.

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In many important ways, electric scooters are just like our other transportation options; they will be an imperfect part of how some people may get around. They are not for everyone, not for every trip, and certainly not free of challenges related to parking or intersections. Electric scooters are another option for people who live, work, and shop to get around within our community. That is good for all of us.

NO

Charles Carr
Charles Carr(Handout)

Charles Carr

Methuen resident, legislative liaison for the Disability Policy Consortium, former commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission

How can anyone argue against a harmless electric scooter tooling down the street at a mere 15 miles per hour in super-congested urban areas of the Commonwealth? Their footprint is significantly smaller than any vehicle, they’re good for the environment, and relatively inexpensive. What’s all the fuss, you ask, about these innocuous little gems?

They’re dangerous! Electric scooters on city streets zig in and out of traffic and cause havoc for cyclists and people like me who use power wheelchairs to get around. My wheelchair is the only transportation option I have; it’s not a convenience, it’s a necessity. Why am I in the street, you may ask? I’ll reply with a question: have you seen the condition of the sidewalks in Boston? They’re torn up, often impassable, and have mystery curb cuts that take you up onto the sidewalk but offer you nowhere to get off.

I’m forced to travel in the street 50 percent of the time, carefully navigating oncoming traffic, cyclists, pedestrians and now electric scooters? That’s a deal breaker for me. One more small fast-moving vehicle to dart out in front of me is one too many. As it is, I hug up against parked cars traveling on Boylston Street when some genius opens their car door without looking. Not a pretty picture and injuries have happened.

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On a good day, when I’ve got a decent stretch of sidewalk, the latest nemesis has been the deluge of bike rental stations. Again, a great concept and filled with virtue but let me take you down into the weeds. What happens with these bikes when they’re not being used? More often than not they’re left strewn on the sidewalk somewhat near the bike rack or nicely parked nowhere near the bike rack but in front of the doorway or curb cut.

I know I sound like that grouchy old man that can’t stand in the way of progress fast enough but that’s not who I am, and I rely on technology more than most. All I’m saying is let’s weigh the benefits of what we create as a society and the downsides that often occur so that they balance.

This is not a scientific poll. Please vote only once.


John Laidler solicited opinions for this exchange. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.