Scooter blight

A herd of dockless scooters clutter a sidewalk in downtown Austin on Monday, April 1.

If anyone wants to see the disaster dockless scooter and bike programs might look like on the streets of Galveston need only to walk the streets Austin.

Maybe step over, around, or across the colorful units is a better term than “walk” in this case.

By design, the mobile units litter the walkways like last Christmas’s favorite toy on a clearance rack. The vendors want you to see them everywhere.

Six months ago, the Galveston City Council decided to ban dockless scooter systems on the island. And that decision is proving to be a good one for residents and tourists.

We hope, should the council be tempted to revisit that decision, the members first take a fact-finding road trip to Austin.

Scooters are a useful transportation unit. But what this new mobility movement is about is a race to establish a footprint and beachhead in the mobile transportation field.

Most are highly funded with venture capital and losing money hand over fist in an attempt to gain market share. That’s why, when you walk or at least try to walk, the streets of downtown Austin, you see so many different colored scooters mixed together.

Mobile scooters are easily accessed via a smartphone and are incredibly convenient. You bend over, pick one up, log on, and take off. When you get where you are going, you simply set it down and walk away.

And most are equipped with lights, both front and back and built to withstand elements and abuse. These are not toys and designed for use and abuse.

But with the undocked scooters come riders zipping in and out of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Imagine scooters zipping along or laying on the ground along The Strand, and you can imagine the challenge the old-fashioned pedestrian might face.

And on a congested weekend along the seawall, people stepping over or around them would face equal difficulty.

As for local shops renting scooters, at least there is an element of accountability for both the units and users. A local businessperson must invest in the community, put their name and reputation into the public, and answer to either the city or residents.

Local accountability is good. And with the local investment comes the relatively modest activity — not a truck arriving from California and dropping them around town on every street corner available.

Galveston is changing. Tourism is growing and visitors, as well as residents, are exploring new ways to get around. From golf carts to scooters, bikes to foot traffic, our community must make decisions with a calculation of the effect on daily life.

But before anyone on the Galveston City Council considers voting to approve undocked scooters or bikes, we implore them to take a drive up the road to Austin and walk the South Congress area. And we recommend they step lightly.

• Leonard Woolsey

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com

(6) comments

Don Schlessinger

Leonard, I second your suggestion for folks to see first hand the mess these scooters cause. The photo attached to your comments was not accurate though, too many of the scooters were standing. My experience this past weekend on the Drag was 3 out of 5 were laying in the sidewalk slowing pedestrians progress. Allowing scooters on the streets of Galveston will be a big mistake. Of course the "tip of the spear" here is tourism and money so my guess is that we who live here will be damned and scooters will be scattered everywhere before the end of the summer.

LeonardWoolsey Staff
Leonard Woolsey

Don, you are correct about the photo not literally matching the text - but I can assure you that was my experience earlier this week. I remember stepping across a read bike laying on the sidewalk as well. Thank you for your comment and for reading The Daily News.

Joel Martin

San Antonio is just as bad.

William McLain

Actually, "...anyone [who] wants to see the disaster [of] dockless scooter and bike programs...need only to walk the streets [of] Austin...[,]" or the sidewalks of downtown Dallas, or the sidewalks of downtown San Antonio, or probably the sidewalks of anywhere else that has chosen to permit those things to operate in "...dockless…" fashion. Kudos to the Galveston City Council for having the wisdom to keep those things out of our city, and off of our sidewalks and streets.

By the way, the last time that I drove in Austin, I was quite worried that someone was going to get run over down there on South Congress as they zipped all in and out of vehicle traffic on those bikes and scooters.

Wayne Holt

There sometimes can be a rush to stay competitive as a tourist destination and adopt products or processes that simply are not sound for a specific location. Dockless scooters may have achieved some type of infamy by appearing to be inappropriate everywhere but leaned up against the Mars Rover.

It's already hard enough to dodge skateboarders who use the roadways like they are DOT certified. Let's continue to do the right thing and keep these scooters off the streets, sidewalks and wherever else there is a patch of free space to drop these examples of motorized graffiti.

Jack Reeves

No, No and No! I was in San Antonio during Christmas and saw people abandon their scooters on sidewalks, up against legally parked cars and, I almost ran over 2 scooters that had been left in a turning lane, after dark, on South Roosevelt Avenue.
Dodging irresponsible golf cart drivers is bad enough. Please say it anin't so.....

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