Scooters in the burgeoning ‘burbs

The metro Atlanta suburb-city where I live joins the growing list of United States municipalities discussing what-the-hell-to-do with scooters. Above is an eight-second time lapse video of what it would look like to ride a scooter* “legally” (which is tending, in more and more cities, to mean in the street) in the Perimeter Community Improvement District there, which (with its neighboring city, Sandy Springs) hosts the largest concentration of Fortune 500 corporate headquarters in the Southeastern United States and boasts easy access to multiple mass transit stations and bus lines. That’s a 45-miles-per-hour road, which means motor vehicle drivers are often going 55 miles per hour.

Please note this area is hilly, hot, and sprawled. Scooters (and ebikes — hello, Jump, which just launched 15 minutes away via train in the City of Atlanta) would provide excellent final-mile connectivity and easy out-to-lunch access — if the area were safe for vulnerable road users. It’s currently not**. (Also please note that people commuting via train from Atlanta are already bringing the scooters and bikes. There is also a Zagster bikeshare station at one corporate location in Sandy Springs, but I hear they are not being used much because of the hills — since they are non-electric — and lack of safe access. They would work great in the parks in Dunwoody.)

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Often just 3 feet wide and unprotected on 45 mph roads

This video was taken on a Sunday morning, so imagine it with 50,000 more people, mostly in cars, during the traditional work-week. Imagine it in the dark, when many commute times happen. Short answer? The current bike lane access in this city does not meet NACTO guidelines for width and separaton/protection appropriate for the speed and volume of motor vehicle traffic. Note there is not one protected bike lane anywhere in the suburb-area of Atlanta known as “Outside the Perimeter”*** (where this city is located). (Here is the announcement I had hoped to hear at the State of the City address three years ago.) The good news? A multi-use path for “commuters” is in the works. If interested (or if you are a city representative anywhere in the USA), I strongly suggest you see this post for my expanded definition of “commuter” and other super-short videos you may find helpful.

I will tell you what I see with scooters in Atlanta. Young adults, in particular, love them. In addition to final-mile-connectivity, they love to travel in groups with them. We have been trying to encourage young people to get outside more, to put down their phones more, and to engage actively in our society. They do that with scooters. Plus, they are living lighter on the land while reducing motor vehicle congestion, and my guess is they are supporting local businesses more (as bike riders do), which puts more money back into the local economy. In short, scooters are good (although if I were a city representative, I would require transparency re: injuries and other data; geofencing and other controls in certain areas; and a requirement for Life Cycle Analysis and end-of-lifespan producer responsibility).

Ebikes, by the way, open up the world especially for those with physical limitations as well as our surging senior population (a recent study of bike riders in London indicated that about 25% of them have disabilities, and another study suggested that about 78% of all people with disabilities could actually use a bike — I meet many people who have trouble walking but have no trouble using bikes as mobility devices). Making scooters and ebikes work, however, in a country designed to be car-centric is a challenge. Please rise to the challenge, and, as always, please let me know if there is anything additional I can do to help.

One final question to all city representatives in Dunwoody, Georgia prior to your city hall conversation about scooters tomorrow night: Have any of you taken the train fifteen minutes into the City of Atlanta and tried one?****

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Click here.

* although I am actually Traveling at the Speed of Bike with BikeNoodle here. Here are more videos with Views from the Handlebars while Traveling at the Speed of Bike in Dunwoody, the City of Atlanta, and elsewhere around metro Atlanta and the USA. Also, if it is helpful to you (especially if you have not ridden a bike on the streets in a city), please see my Bonus Resources for link to my Views from the Handlebars photo album, all taken while using a body camera. Note: There is an account of National Bike to Work Day when I rode to Cox Enterprises in my book. Other accounts of Traveling at the Speed of Bike in this city include Chapter 3: Pedaling as Fast as I Can; Chapter 6: Noodle Lady,; and the Epilogue. 

**If you see people over the age of twelve riding bikes or scooters on sidewalks in your city, that means your city has failed to provide safe-access-for-all. Please note that there is a chance that your city is doing this intentionally, although that may not be realized. See Truth at a Crossroads. It is the elephant in the room in suburbia everywhere.

*** Here’s what I’d like to see along the Perimeter Highway, by the way. Can you believe Cobb County, Georgia, is already taking the lead on this?

**** This is similar to the question I asked years ago — and again last week as speed limits by schools are being discussed again — Have you walked a mile with a child?

P.S. Yes, I know scooter parking is an issue, especially re: impeding access for those in wheelchairs. See my previous post about this issue here. The City of Santa Monica, California (which, by the way, is the best place I’ve ever been Traveling at the Speed of Bike in the USA) is the first US city to provide scooter-parking corrals. (It was the first city where Bird scooters launched last February.) Here’s a nice account of how Santa Monica has been handling scooters. There are a lot of things about Santa Monica that remind me of Dunwoody — although it has beach and art, and we don’t. 😦

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