Emma Frankart Henterly gives trendy last-mile transportation a shot.
This summer, Central Ohio was beset by a flock of Birds, followed shortly by a bevy of Limes. Like them or loathe them, electric scooters had arrived in Columbus, and I couldn't wait to take one for a spin.
I'll be the first to admit I wasn't using the Lime-S scooter properly. But I had somewhere to be and a vehicle that had run out of fuel mid-trip, so, armed with a can of gas and my own hubris, I set off into the bike lane on Summit Street. I was flying full speed—maybe 17 mph, thanks to a slight downhill slope or a tailwind—between Campus and Italian Village when the bag carrying my gas can and iPad, balanced precariously on the scooter's footboard, ripped under the weight of its contents. My stuff went flying and I braked. Hard.
There was a flicker of realization that I'd screwed up before I launched forward into nothingness, hit the pavement and skidded to a halt. I bloodied my knee—the pavement cheese-gratered right through my jeans and the top layer of skin—and I sprained my ankle. My calf sported a gnarly bruise the size of my hand.
A week later, I was standing outside Little Palace with a co-worker, watching someone brave a downpour on a scooter. As he attempted to transition from the sidewalk to the bike lane on Fourth Street, he hit a puddle and face-planted.
At least I know I'm not alone in my struggle.
Safety has been a major concern among city leaders and residents since Lime and Bird scooters suddenly proliferated around Central Ohio this summer, prompting Upper Arlington and Bexley officials to remove them from city streets. Columbus has allowed the scooters, with a few caveats. The details seem to change almost daily, but Columbus set ground rules regarding the number of companies that can operate in the city and how many scooters they can deploy. Other regulations about payment options and parking restrictions are also pending. And in early September, Mayor Andy Ginther announced a temporary “emergency” rule banning scooter-riders from the sidewalks.
Kyle Bivenour, Lime's Central Ohio operations manager, has a few safety tips. “We encourage everybody to ride the scooters like you would a bicycle,” he says. “Use the roadways, use bike lanes when possible, and make sure that you're adhering to all traffic laws.” He advises riders to signal turns the way they would on bikes and to use helmets.
Bird is also working toward a safer scootering environment. The company distributes free helmets to riders upon request, provides an in-app tutorial on using the service and displays safety information on the device itself, according to a Bird spokesperson.
As for me, I'm not quite ready to swear off scooters yet, despite the insistence of colleagues and friends who think I'm simply too clumsy. Ignoring their admonitions, I recently rode one for a half-mile Downtown. I carried only my secured backpack and a healthy respect for safety precautions. I'm happy to report that despite wearing heels, I made it to my destination without incident.***
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