Electric scooters will be rolling into Boston this spring as part of a pilot program approved by city council, now meeting with three separate companies: Lime, Bird and Lyft. Unlike Blue Bikes, e-scooter services wouldn’t be limited to a single company. Their presence – just like that of any other alternative transport mode that’s smaller, slower and non-reliant on fossil fuels – will make city streets cleaner, less congested, safer and more accessible to a broader range of travelers. Long-term, it also drives down costs for road and bridge repairs (more frequent with heavier traffic) as well as emergency response resources for serious injury crashes (you’d much rather your bike get hit by an e-scooter than a dump truck).
Boston bike attorneys know that much of the vexation around e-scooters is two-fold: Bold guerrilla marketing and confusion about they are supposed to fit into the traffic matrix. Bird’s dockless e-scooters showed up unannounced on Cambridge and Somerville sidewalks overnight last summer, taking motorists, cyclists and pedestrians by surprise (never a good thing in traffic) and sparking ire among city leaders who weren’t given the chance to weigh in first. Technically the service wasn’t operational in Boston, but a few made their way across those borders (to the chagrin of the mayor, who warned the company if they were found lying unattended they’d be hauled to a tow yard). Bird, a California company, used the same strategy in other cities with mixed success. It only lasted about two months in the Boston suburbs before caving to pressure and packing up.
Now, instead of the mayor basically shouting e-scooter companies off his city lawn, they’ve been welcomed with a seat at the table for a chance – with the city’s blessing – to try again. (Cambridge may soon do the same, which is good news because better connectivity boosts use rates with dockless systems.) Continue reading