Scooters: A Week In, What Do You Think?

Scooters in Downtown Knoxville, May 2019

Well, we’ve had about a week of uninterrupted electric scooters in downtown Knoxville. A lot of people seem to be having a great time on the devices while social media threads and personal conversations I’ve had with downtown residents indicates not everyone is infatuated. Some people come down on both sides – seeing the fun, but also the problems.

I contacted city officials to get their early verdict and was told it’s still a bit early, but that they anticipate weekly reports from the companies involved and that they will distribute the information to media. I was also told they will look at any changes in the program suggested by the data.

Scooters in Downtown Knoxville, May 2019

Scooters in Downtown Knoxville, May 2019

Scooters in Downtown Knoxville, May 2019

When they were introduced, people within city government acknowledged there would be problems, but also noted the demand. Both the demand and the problems are on display. They were rolled out with a set of guidelines that should avoid most of the problems, but the rules haven’t universally – or even widely – followed and therein lies much of the problem.

Of course, we aren’t the only city struggling with the new fad. In England, they are basically illegal in public spaces. In Paris, pedestrian injuries and complaints have led the government to ban the transportation mode from sidewalks, expressing concern particularly for the elderly and children. The fine for riding on the sidewalk will be a hefty $150 (approximate). They also plan to develop designated parking areas and fine those who park elsewhere.

A much anticipated study conducted in Austin (where they have been available for about a year) by the CDC was recently published. They looked at e-scooter injuries in about a three month period in the city and found 271 incidents. Of those, almost half (45%) were head injuries and the study found that only about 1% used a helmet. Very striking, “Among those injured, 15 percent incurred “traumatic brain injuries.” It should be noted that the rate of injury was low (20 per 100,000 trips) and that other motorized vehicles were not commonly involved in the injuries.

Scooters in Downtown Knoxville, May 2019

Scooters in Downtown Knoxville, May 2019

Scooters in Downtown Knoxville, May 2019

My observations, all anecdotal, of course, run the gamut. I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone wearing a helmet, so the rate of helmet usage isn’t high here, either. I’ve seen lots of groups and couples having a great time. And I’ve seen people apparently in business wear (even suits) riding them and it seems that’s a good way to get quickly across downtown for a meeting without getting sweaty.

That said, my guess is that at least fifty percent of people are riding them on sidewalks. I think that might be lower than it was at first. I’ve said something to some of them and they have all expressed surprise (seemingly legitimate) that they can’t ride there. Urban Woman made me stop when a young man threatened to punch me for telling his girlfriend she was not to be on the sidewalk. Both Urban Woman and the gentleman seemed to agree I’d raised my voice a bit too much.

The concern there is the likelihood of running into pedestrians or wrecking to avoid it. I know several people with mobility issues who are now more fearful on the sidewalks. Still, the city has a rule, so what went wrong? I’m guessing the “rules” that have to be “accepted” in the app spell it out, but none of us read the fine print, we just accept it and move on. I do wish the city had put extra officers all around downtown during the roll out to specifically warn, but not ticket the riders. If we’d established it out the gate, we’d probably have had fewer issues on the sidewalks. Signage specifically about the sidewalks might also help.

Scooters in Downtown Knoxville, May 2019

Scooters in Downtown Knoxville, May 2019

Scooters in Downtown Knoxville, May 2019

 

Beyond the injury risk from not wearing helmets and riding on sidewalks, there are other issues. I pictured one scoot here parking precisely across the sidewalk. This was not staged. I’ve heard others report seeing them lying on their side across the sidewalk. I saw one lying in the handicapped accessible dip which would have rendered the crossing useless to someone in a wheelchair.

Then there is the issue of obeying traffic rules on the streets. Many of the riders are not doing so. Last week I was driving back into the city around 11:00 PM one night and witnessed a large, laughing group of riders cross Summit Hill on Gay. It’s a dangerous enough intersection anytime, but this time it was dark, they were moving quickly — and they ran a red light! It was hilarious to the group, horrifying to the drivers and potentially suicidal.

So what do you think? Do you think it is going well? Are you concerned? Should pedestrians point out to riders on the sidewalk that they should be elsewhere? What can we do to make this more safe or is this simply a risk that goes with modern urban fun? I’d love to have your thoughts.

Comments

  1. Last Friday night around midnight as I pulled my car out of its parking space on Gay Street in front of 1st TN Plaza across from the Bistro, a couple on a scooter (woman in front, man behind) came swooping past my car’s front left side; it’s a wonder I didn’t hit them, and I’m surprised the event didn’t give me a heart attack. IMHO the blasted things are dangerous and unnecessary.

  2. I almost ran into a group of riders swerving back and forth down Summit Hill as I was about to turn right onto Gay street. I don’t know that most of the pedestrian population has an understanding of the importance of following road rules on this thing and there is a huge safety hazard there.

    Additionally, it’s extremely problematic that these scooters can be just left anywhere when the user is done riding. I have friends with disabilities and mobility issues who have run into this problem when a scooter is left in the middle of a sidewalk. If the scooter companies had something similar to the pace bike system where the scooters had to be clipped into a rack, I think that could be an easy fix to the problem.

  3. Something not being mentioned is how dangerous riding on the sidewalk is for the person riding the scooter. While they aren’t exactly bicycles, they are closer to one than a pedestrian on foot, and I would think this data would still apply. Cycling advocacy and education groups pretty consistently stress the importance of riding in the road and not on the sidewalk for the safety of the cyclist.

    https://cyclingsavvy.org/2017/10/sidewalk-strife/
    http://www.bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/sidepath/sidecrash.htm

  4. As one of Jenny’s “grouchy downtown residents,” I fear that I’m less sanguine about the potential efficacy of signage informing scooter people of basic rules structuring the proper use of scooters because I suspect that many offenders–i.e., those scootering on sidewalks, etc.–know the rules but believe themselves exempt from having to adhere to them. It is a national illness, so one should not be surprised to find it here as well.

    Like Alan, I guess roughly half of the scooter people I’ve seen downtown are scootering on our sidewalks, and, as have others, I told several groups of riders that this was not an acceptable practice. Their responses quite clearly implied not ignorance of the rules but a haughty indifference to them, usually neatly coupled with a sack of excuses. “We were just going to say hello to a friend; “we were just getting cash from the ATM machine; ” we just were taking a short cut.” No one I spoke with expressed surprise, no one apologized, and no one hinted that s/he would be more careful in the future. Instead, I have usually got smart ass reactions: one man, apparently mistaking sarcasm for irony, repeatedly entreated me to “have a great day,” and another told me, in no uncertain terms and using language now politely known as “locker room talk,” that he would ride anywhere he chose.

    Downtown pedestrians, especially the elderly and the very young, should not have to jump out of the way, should not have to worry that their dogs are going to be hit or that a scooter will run into a dog leash thereby causing grave injury to humans and canines, and should not be threatened by an irate scooter person who believes she or he need not worry about the “niceties” of communal life and civic responsibility. And the best way to avoid these and other social costs of individual indulgences is make and enforce strict laws regulating where and in what manner scooters can be used in public spaces.

  5. Stewart Smith says

    These things are a blast!

  6. “No Sidewalk Riding” sticker / poster campaign is needed to insure any type of success. As of now I am an open minded old city resident who is thumbs down on the scooters (at this time).

    I almost dumped my motorcycle as a briskly moving ‘sidewalk scooter’ almost broadsided me as I pulled into my parking lot. I did not make a fuss of it but I wonder, who would have been liable if there were an accident under those circumstances ? Me, the scooter rider or the city of Knoxville (for not enforcing the no scooters on sidewalk law)?

    Out of curiosity, is the ‘no scooters on sidewalks’ a policy or an enforceable traffic law?

  7. There’s an inherent problem with an object that is found on a sidewalk that is not to be used on sidewalks.

  8. I just think that it should not be allowed in Knoxville unless the city has a bicycle lane. And then it will be safer. In downtown chattanooga there’s bike lanes so people can use the bicycle safe.

  9. We experienced many incidences where the scooters were parked on side walk, grass area off sidewalk, etc. There were 3 individuals riding on sidewalk on Gay St Bridge. Outside of Downtown, found a few just parked.

  10. Harriet Welty Rochefort says

    I live in Paris, France where electric scooters rule the sidewalks. Apparently, from September on, stiff fines will be imposed on those who ride scooters on the sidewalks. How greatly that rule will be enforced is another question…For the moment, the pedestrian, especially the very young and very old, take their lives in their hands each time they step out the door. If it’s not a scooter coming directly at you, it’s a scooter someone has carelessly thrown on the pavement. Who would you sue if injured? Good question. But one thing is sure: there’s a real need for the people who sell these machines and the people (cities) that buy them to strictly legislate their use.

  11. Personally, I don’t care either way. I don’t do the bikes or the scooters, I like getting my steps/Sweatcoins in. I am sorry you got yelled at by the territorial beta male though. It is honestly the most insecure, pathetic thing when men assume their girlfriends can’t fight their own battles.

  12. I for one have loved the scooters. Very easy to get me between short distances that I would normally take a Lyft. I agree that there can be better execution for battery charging, and more rule-following, which will come with time and education of users.

  13. Dustin Durham says

    Hey all, a few thoughts on this. (Warning, I tend to ramble and post large comments. Apologies in advance. :p )

    First, let me me clear that I fully support alt transit. As someone that doesn’t own a car (not by choice, mind you, because mine broke last year and I am too poor to buy a new one just yet) I commute to work in 4th & Gill from my home near Honeybee Coffee either by foot (hour walk) or bike (20 min ride) every day. So any ‘missing middle’ transit that can make daily trips of 3-5 miles easier gets my vote. Innovation like this can only further progress our quality of life in Knoxville, if we are good stewards of it. I hope these scooters do well, and they expand the geonet (especially for VeoRide) into more of North Knox and South Knox beyond Sevier Ave.

    That said, I worry, not about locals, but about visitors, casually littering these things around and making the city look trashy. Maybe its my architecture/planning mentality, but the idea of dockless rentals has always been something that I’ve been torn on, because of this very issue. I haven’t seen many placed badly, but every time I do, it irks me to indescribable degrees. I wish there was some way for them to redesign the geonet so you have ‘geo-zones’ for drop-offs, so they stay dockless and are better than bike rentals in that sense, but also allow for more planning and clustering than what they currently have.

    In regards to people riding on sidewalks and being rude, I will say that in my time walking or biking downtown (I go to the downtown Y so I am going through downtown at least twice a day) I haven’t seen that many cases of bad behavior, but I will also remind folks that – and not to stereotype, but to just report my observations – most of the ‘reckless riders’ I’ve seen have been college-aged, and it is graduation season, so we currently have a lot of visitors to UT and a lot of bored UT students that are done with finals and have nothing to do before they go home for summer. I’m 28, so I have nothing against young folks, but statistically we tend to be ‘dumber’ in this sense (more reckless) and I think any complaints of sidewalk riding or running red lights, etc, should be understood in light of where we literally are in time right now with graduations.

    In regards to signage and culture, I will say that I don’t think it would be a bad idea to do some (at least for now) temporary road markings like bike sharrows but with a scooter icon, to remind drivers that the scooters ‘belong’ on the road, and have just as much of a right to be there. Also, perhaps some signs or banners for the first few months (someone mentioned marketing campaigns elsewhere) just to get people used to how to use this new technology would do well. All new things take time to adjust to, and everyone needs strong reminders at first of how they work.

    Culture is hard to change, but there are some practical things to consider on this issue. I’m not saying I know exactly how to change mindsets, but we at least need to be aware of these things and discussing them. A few examples of what may help (brainstorming out loud here):
    -maybe having billboards or some type of advertising in West Knox and the more suburban areas about scooters or in general how downtown is a unique neighborhood and cars are not king there. We need to kindly remind folks that the way they drive and live their lives in suburban Knoxville isn’t how the inner city functions.
    -maybe that means we institute what some cities do and have a radically low speed limit in our core (at least Gay and Union and Market Streets, for example) of 5 or 10 miles an hour. We need to remind people that the core of the city is less for personal armored tanks called cars and more for the vulnerable citizens we call pedestrians and cyclists and scooterers? (scooterites?) (scooterarians?)
    -I have been a cyclist for almost a decade, and have been a cycle commuter on and off for about 5 years, and I do not wear a helmet. This may be controversial, and everyone, especially children or parents, can make their own decisions on this (I am a young single male; again, we tend to be ‘reckless’) but I have made this decision on principle. I’ll tell you why.

    I read a book recently called ‘In the City of Bikes’ about the history of cycling in Amsterdam. I know they are a unique and radically special case, but the idea here is that you should not *need* to wear a helmet just to commute to work. Our cities, at least the cores, need to be designed so they are safe enough to do this, whether you are 8 or 80 years old (https://www.880cities.org/).

    As Americans, we see something with two wheels and make the false assumption that it is closely related to a car. A bike is not a car. It has not near as much power and you are not protected on one like you are in car. But it is also more dangerous than walking. We need to stop saying, ‘you should wear a helmet on a bike because you have to on a motorcycle, and wear a seatbelt in a car.’ This is fair, except making the mistake about thinking these are all in the same category. They are not. Bikes dont go in the same spaces (highways) or the same speed as cars and motorcycles. But they also don’t go the same places or speeds as pedestrians. There needs to be a third area for these things, and we call them bike lanes, and they are sorely missing in most US cities. I agree that bikes are better on roads, but drivers need to understand that without the third option of bike lanes, we cyclists are forced (sometimes legally) to exist in a space with a mode of transit that is nothing like ours, and that terrifies us. And the anger of entitled drivers does nothing to make us feel better when all we are doing is trying to get from point A to B and have no better option but to exist on the road with cars.

    I say that to say this: E-Scooters are a different beast even still. They are a 4th area, closer to cars, but also closer to bikes. I feel more so that I need a helmet on these scooters than my bike, but it may also be the newness of it. They would be suited best in a bike lane, definitely don’t belong on sidewalks, and are fine in the road, but we need everyone to understand that these aren’t cars, or bikes, but the people on them are just as vulnerable as cyclists or pedestrians.

    We need to start designing the city for these missing spaces. Our whole issue is pretending that with modes of transit that aren’t walking or driving, it’s sufficient to keep having just two spaces – one for driving and one for walking. It’s not. The tragedy of Central Street right now is that they literally paved OVER the bike lanes for nice ‘bump outs’ for plantings INSTEAD of just creating protected bike lanes. It makes me so sad and angry. We can only get so mad at scooters for being where we feel they don’t belong before we have to ask ourselves where they do belong, and if we are committing time and money to build those places. You shouldn’t have to wear a helmet to walk, and you shouldn’t have to wear one to cycle or ride a scooter, regardless of age, because a city should be designed for people of all ages and all transit choices.

    Ok, I’m done. Thanks for listening to my Ted Talk. Haha. =D

    • The Modern Gal says

      Echoing your many great points! As a cyclist, I recognize that having any alternative transit on the streets helps us all because it forces motorists to be more aware. Also, I’ve seen my fair share of unsafe operation of the rental bikes too, so it’s not necessarily a scooter problem as much as it may be an unexperienced user problem or lack of education problem or both. Signage could be good, education is good, enforcement is important.

  14. Stephanie Hall says

    PLEASE CALL 311 and voice concerns/complaints. This is the most constructive thing to do; I was told that the city is monitoring complaint calls made to 311. I also asked a PBA officer if they have any jurisdiction over scooters and was told no, that it’s a KPD issue. So maybe call KPD? I personally think scooters are trashing Knoxville physically and psychologically. I’ve googled it and there are cities reconsidering their contracts.

  15. Gail Mitchell says

    I don’t know. To me it just seems like more clutter downtown. They do look like a lot of fun, however downtown is not so huge that it takes hours to get from one end to another. My concern is the lack of helmet usage. I’m the wife of an avid cyclist. We’re talking a minimum of 30 miles every time he goes out, Never without a helmet thankfully. And that helmet has saved him many times. Our son, also formerly a cyclist, 18 at the time, was riding on a Saturday morning last summer in our very uncongested traffic neighborhood in West Knoxville. He was hit by a car and had he not been wearing a helmet, would have suffered a serious head injury according to ER docs. Severe road rash and several scrapes and internal bruising happened as well as a cracked helmet that saved his head. I know helmets are cumbersome but motorcyclists are required to wear them. Even when you ride Segways in a tourist area its with a helmet. If your whole body is exposed in traffic, don’t you want to at least protect your brain? Not sure these are really a good idea for our beautiful downtown area. Maybe for the greenway?

    • Stewart Smith says

      I agree. helmet’s save lives. Mine saved me. You said,”And that helmet has saved him many times”. I am sure you meant a helmet saved him many times. Just clarification. Helmets are one and done.

  16. A “do not ride on sidewalks” clickthrough on the app before unlocking a scooter would be a good idea. I’ll suggest that to both companies.

    • “Hey,

      Thank you so much for making us aware of this issue, I will contact our operations manager in Knoxville to make them aware of the side-walking riding. We’ll do our absolute best to provide a better input to our riders that side-walking riding is not allowed.

      We apologize if this has become an inconvenience to you or anyone in Knoxville. I can assure you this message will be passed along to the right people.

      Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help. I’ll be more than happy to help out.

      Best regards,
      Sergio”

      • Bill Bruce says

        I would also add the $50 City fine to the app and scooter sticker as well!

        • I personally dont want them in the road. Its hard enough getting around people on bikes and these are way slower. Also I really dont see a need for helmets. 13 mph is pretty slow provided they are behaving like pedestrians. An olypmic sprinter runs in the 22-24 mph range you dont make them wear helmets, plus most of these are rented on spur of the moments. I dont walk around with helmet. I think after the newness wears off they will be a lot less annoying.

          • The Modern Gal says

            These scooters are geo-fenced, and as far as I can tell, they’re limited to roads that already should be lower speed. Unfortunately, there’s not enough room on the sidewalks for scooters and cyclists and pedestrians, and pedestrians are ultimately the most vulnerable of the three and should have priority use of the sidewalk. Our downtown roads are wide enough that cyclists and scooters should be able to comfortably co-exist with cars, but that’s dependent upon EVERYONE paying attention and following the rules of the road.

            With that in mind, the idea behind helmets is that scooter riders (and cyclists, for that matter) are more likely to be gravely injured if a vehicle hits them. I agree, I’d never walk around with my helmet on a regular day, so I don’t know that there’s a great solution.

      • The city wants all of us to remind those that we see scooting on sidewalks, that it’s not allowed. Most likely it is from a lack of knowledge, not following instructions, excitement, etc…. I too, agree that some temporary signage for the next 30-60 days would be beneficial. We need to give it some time, compare both companies and see if the positives outweigh the negatives. I for one am gonna give both companies a try during R&B next weekend. Beats driving.

  17. Bill Bruce says

    I wanted to voice a concern about the scooters that I’ve observed today. I love the idea of alternate transportation and fully support scooters as a part of that. Anything that can limit vehicular use downtown is great with me. That said a quick count of 14 people riding scooters today I counted 3 utilizing the street and 11 on the sidewalks. With the scooters going 15mph it certainly isn’t safe on sidewalks where adults,kids and elderly are walking, talking, reading their cell phones, etc. I realize scooters are supposed to be restricted to the streets but that is not happening and will only get worse unless they can adjust their technology. I live downtown and safety should be a first priority. One thing I’ve noticed is that most riders are not aware of the scooter restrictions. I would suggest a sticker on the scooters handlebar that reads ” $50 FINE if ridden on sidewalk”. I would make the scooter company have the sidewalk and area restrictions much more noticeable on app! Lastly I noticed an undercover cop pulling them over if on the sidewalk yesterday. Sounds like a great way for the City to make more money!! Thanks

  18. Joel Weber says

    I think they are mostly fine. However, we do have a few streets (like Summit Hill) that are too busy and too fast to ride a scooter on.

  19. What is the true advantage of scooters to Downtown Knoxville ambiance/living/tourism? If we don’t have them, will people go elsewhere or refuse to go Downtown? When I posted a comment on Facebook, I had friends from Portland and Singapore comment negatively about scooter use in their cities.

    We live downtown and walk everywhere. Downtown is so charming and compact that walking is a joy. It takes my husband 7 minutes to walk from Locust Street/Union Ave. to his office at Riverview Tower. A scooter would perhaps cut that down to 4 minutes (and you would lose the charm of meeting and chatting with friends on the street) – why bother?

  20. Read Walkable City by Jeff Speck: If you remove parking from Gay Street, you remove the appeal and charm of sidewalk cafes or other activities. It makes sense – sitting several feet from vehicles speeding by does not conduce to having a relaxed drink or meal at Babalu, Sapphire, Downtown Brewery, etc. [It appears that outdoor seating at JC Holdway and The Pearl works because Union there is just a block going west, so vehicles don’t get up enough speed to feel menacing.]

  21. I was fairly concerned as a downtown resident when these scooters appeared, having seen them in much larger towns and creating quite a mess. “Mess” in this case is defined as piled up on the sidewalks, being ridden on sidewalks at high speed, etc. I can’t speak to the rules and how they compare to Knoxville in someplace like, say, San Diego, which just seems awash in these things. That said, I’ve been reasonably surprised in a good way so far here. I’ve rarely seen them ridden on the sidewalk to be honest. I have seen them abandoned in the middle of the sidewalk however. I agree 100% with “someone” needing to ticket some of these folks if they are on sidewalk and/or a sticker being placed on the handlebar about that issue. Otherwise, kudos to the city for at least attempting to get in front of this problem, otherwise, we’d have the issues Nashville did where, as I understand it, scooters suddenly appeared with very little oversight.

    Regarding bad behavior, well, yes it is way more dangerous than a car, but I see atrocious driving downtown (speeding, wrong way driving, red lights run, pedestrians ignored, etc) all the time as well and there’s plenty of potential for mayhem there as well. Not excusing it, just pointing it that bad human behavior is how the world rolls from time to time, so it’s not endemic to scooters.

  22. I’m all for the sign on the Scooter handlebars that says “stay off the sidewalk” and, drivers need to slow down and be way more cautious in the CBID anyway so, if scooter traffic helps slow drivers down I’m all for that. When I notice a scooter on a sidewalk I’m walking on I make a point to walk a little erratically, in an effort to look like I might move in any direction at any time without warning. That seems to slow scooter drivers right down. I wonder who owns the liability if somebody, a small child; and elderly or infirm (or simply litigious minded) person is hit and injured by someone riding a scooter on the sidewalk. “Seems like the kind of thing an enterprising lawyer might go after the City for if they think they can show that the City knew the risks and did nothing to minimize said risks. A few beat officers warning/ticketing sidewalk scooterers seems like an ounce of prevention that could save us a pound of contention.

    • I’ve was nearly hit walking out of the Bistro and on to the sidewalk this week. I was wondering if the riders had been told to stay off the sidewalk. The message is not being delivered. The city will definitely be sued when, inevitably, someone is injured.

  23. CherTheRoad says

    No helmets. In the middle of the road. Often under the influence. More often inexperienced. Look to Nashville and see. These are a terrible idea and the next time I’m inebriated in the Old City, I’m getting one.

    • Drivers need to be aware that the scooters are allowed to use the road. I was hugging the right hand curb (like I would do on my bike) and a guy decided I was a nuisance and began honking at me until I moved it to the sidewalk and let him pass. This was on the corner of Summit and Gay heading toward Wall St. I’ll continue to use them, but I’m wary of the way drivers will treat me.

      • I totally agree with this point.

        I’d honestly rather take my chances on the sidewalk as I feel confident in my ability to avoid people on the sidewalks as opposed to not getting hit or “attacked” by an a-hole driver.

  24. Jacob Briggerman says

    I know most won’t agree, but I would prefer they be on the sidewalk. I have often seen skateboards, bicycles, and even the occasional roller skate on the downtown sidewalks. If pedestrians and riders alike can be aware of each other then I think the sidewalk is a much safer place for our riders. Just because we are suddenly out of our cars and walking around doesn’t mean we should stop being cautious and aware of our surroundings. Our side walks are plenty big in most of the downtown area for this to be a possibility. I know that the former mentioned are not motorized and the scooters are, but having been on one myself I can say that I can go much faster on a skateboard, but my skateboard is much slower to stop when necessary.
    However, I did ride the scooter in the road. A law is a law….just my thoughts.

  25. Yeah I work downtown and have been almost hit on the sidewalk twice. KPD needs to start issuing tickets.

  26. John Owens says

    As a downtown resident and senior citizen who is frequently out for extended periods of walking for fitness, I get to observe a lot of what’s going on downtown.

    I’m impressed with the number of people I see (mostly men) in business suits using the scooters. These quiet and compact vehicles are a very simple, efficient, and convenient “last mile” solution, except, of course, in bad weather. The good news is that we have a mild climate that is part of the attraction to our region.

    Yes, there are a few less mature and sensible users around, but even they will become more serious about overall safety and convenient “parking” of the scooters with time and maybe some coaching through good example. And yes, especially early in the implementation, enforcement by the police is very important in getting peoples attention to the rules.

    A good “last mile” solution becomes more and more essential as the flow of people continues to grow within the space constraints of our downtown. That is why scooters have become so popular in more developed cities.

    My wife and I are already working as informal volunteer “goodwill ambassadors” for the scooters, setting the example by moving those found in disarray into proper placement to keep the sidewalks passable and safe for pedestrians. Join us, please!

    And, I can’t wait to get on one of the scooters !

  27. My observation is that the majority (over 50%) of riders use the sidewalks most of the time. The ones actually on the streets don’t even pretend to observe traffic laws. Turn signals, anyone? As much fun as it seems to be for some, downtown is not an amusement park. Mixing toys and cars is just a bad idea.

  28. I think you’re pretty high on that estimate of 50% riding on the sidewalk. In my observation, it’s significantly less. I probably see 10 or more riders on the street for every 1 on the sidewalk. Maybe it depends on where and when you’re counting.

    And I’d much prefer to see a warning not to ride the sidewalks displayed prominently (i.e. on the handlebars) on the scooters rather than signage. Riders make up a fraction of a percent of traffic, and cluttering up the streetscape with signs, in an area already already saturated with them, doesn’t strike me as worthwhile, when the message can be relayed to its target audience more directly.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      The idea about posting that on the bike is one I intended to mention. I think it is the obvious solution to the single most pressing rule: Stay off the Sidewalk. It’s hard to argue with someone who tells you to get off the sidewalk when you are staring at those words on the handlebars.

  29. The helmet problem is a hard one but shouldn’t be that mistifying, as someone who rides in downtown often, imagine the awkwardness of carrying a big helmet around with you while at bars, restaurants, elsewhere. A few months ago I backed a foldable helmet Kickstarter (there are a few) and hope to receive it later this summer. The problem is they are still $80 at the cheapest which for many intended users of scooters is well out of their price range. I do think foldable helmets (they meet or exceed helmet standards) could help to this problem, but one has to remember that helmets don’t come with the vehicles, as social norms precluded helmets from being part of the “shared experience” from the early bikeshare days. Most scooter trips as last mile trips are impulsive for the most part, how is a casual user really incentivized to lug around a helmet if they *might* use it or not? Other cities, scooter companies have been taken to task to do better rider training but again as Alan points out, you can still find ways to skip through the print, even if they make it bigger ;).

    On the sidewalk front, it shows that there is a huge demand for a shared lane of bike and scooter users that doesn’t exist downtown. I’m hopeful that these interactions push the narrative of more street space for scooters/bikes. But again, we shouldn’t be surprised as one only has to look at signs just outside of the downtown core (Cumberland for example) that direct bikes to bike on the sidewalk. Or if you decide to be more adventurous out west, biking (or in this case scootering), your livelihood may depend on riding on a sidewalk. For now though, I think as a community we try to hold each other accountable, yes, people will skirt the rules, all people regardless of mode (yes, even cars) do that, but a little positive reinforcement early on, maybe having a few safety officers out during weekends will help minimize the negatives as we gain this new mode share.

    • I was in Charlottesville visiting last weekend, they have a sign campaign called “Walk your Wheels” that is at every point outside of the downtown pedestrian mall. A similar tagline could be used with signs around downtown here in Knoxville to engage users that sidewalks are only for walking/strolling pace. It could be done rather tastefully. Maybe just maybe it will push Gay St. to lose street parking in favor of a shared mobility lane

      • Phillip Jennings says

        Getting rid of street parking on Gay St would be a HUGE plus for downtown. With all the al fresco dining and cars parked against the curb most of the way from the 600 to 300 block, there already is little room for pedestrians. Remove the car parking and there is room for a slightly expanded side walk AND a bike/scooter lane.

        • Yes, it would be a great idea. And, removing cars altogether for maybe 3-4 blocks of Gay Street would be even better.

    • I think drivers just need to accept alternate forms of transportation in regular traffic lanes downtown. Automobiles don’t need to be traveling any faster than scooters or bikes in the CBID.

      • Personally I agree with you but it’s going to take more than a few of us to help override the loudest who would not be happy

      • I absolutely agree with this. Loud motorcycles and cars speeding on Gay St. make the downtown experience much less enjoyable. If the quiet scoot-ees do so safely, I’m all for it.

  30. I told my “Downtown Husband” that I’m not walking anywhere with him if he won’t stop yelling at the sidewalk scooters. We desperately need either signage or some sort of enforcement other than grouchy downtown residents. What about empowering the “Parking Enforcement” squad to warn the sidewalk riders……the squad seems. to be everywhere!

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I asked the parking police guys and they said they will mention it to riders, but they have no real authority over them. The guy seemed timid enough I wasn’t convinced he would even say anything.

  31. Chris Eaker says

    I’ve also seen people riding on the sidewalks and parking their scooters across sidewalks. But I’ve also seen people following all the rules. I think as people get more accustomed to the rules, the sidewalk riding will reduce. It is a great way to get around. I don’t understand why people refuse to wear a helmet. It’s just asking for trouble.

    • Regarding the lack of helmet usage, I think it comes down to practicability and convenience. If I’m a visitor to downtown (which I suspect most riders are), I’m not going to bring a helmet with me in the off chance I might need or want to use a scooter. The scooters are there for convenience, but if I have to lug a helmet with me everywhere I go then the convenience of the scooter likely becomes outweighed by the inconvenience of the helmet lugging.

      I’m not defending the lack of helmet usage, just stating why I believe it’s the case. I’ve not used the Knoxville scooters, but I used them several times on a recent trip to Austin and in each instance it would have been impractical for me to have had a helmet with me. So, I accepted the risk and rode helmet-free.

      I won’t state the obvious public health issues that would come with shared helmets, which I’m sure some will suggest as a possible solution.

  32. I saw two people riding on one. That looked like a disaster waiting to happen. I also saw a couple of riders having to use foot power because of the battery dying. I think they can be good in the long run. I saw you at the farmers market as well.

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