Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

Est. 2014

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Learning to live with Lime scooters

Learning to live with Lime scooters

The other night, I was sitting in my living room when I heard some noise coming from outside the window. It was late on a Saturday so I had assumed it was some spillover from the bar crowd. Plus, it sounded like whoever was outside of my window was whooping it up and having a good time. When I looked out, I should not have been surprised — but I was. It was a grown man on a bright green scooter whizzing down the street.

The Lime scooters had only been in Rochester for a couple of days at this point, so I decided to watch as the rider jubilantly made his way toward me. Then, suddenly… ‘clunk.’ The rider went face first over his handlebars onto the street. Don’t worry; at least I didn’t. He was able to get up and walk it off. Lucky for him, there was no street sweeper coming up behind him.

For the rest of the weekend, I continued playing the scene out in my head (mainly for silent chuckles). What I later realized is that this seemingly ordinary accident was actually the symptom of a problem that’s played out in cities before us — people are treating the scooters like toys.

To be clear, these electrically-powered scooters are not toys.

They make look like they are. (After all, when is the last time you hopped on a scooter for any other reason but to have fun?) But these shared scooters lose the designation of a toy as soon as they show up on the street going 15 miles per hour. They need to be operated with safety top of mind.

Now, in all honesty — I am supportive of the scooter pilot program, which runs through November. In fact, I hopped on one just this morning to shave a few minutes off a walk between meetings. In my opinion, they are an excellent way to get around, especially for those trips that fall in between walking and driving distance. But before you get on one, consider that you are getting on a vehicle, one that is subject to traffic laws. Also remember that you are at a disadvantage compared to your two-ton counterparts.

Obligatory scooter selfie. (Don’t worry, I didn’t have the headphones in while riding.)

Obligatory scooter selfie. (Don’t worry, I didn’t have the headphones in while riding.)

Reading the comments online, I can tell the community is divided about these green scooters. Some have been to other cities where scooter operators treat the built environment like the Wild West, and are fearful of accidents and overcrowding on the sidewalks (motorized scooters are technically not allowed on sidewalks unless you are leaving from or arriving to a destination). Other are excited to see Rochester embrace new ways of getting around town — and let’s face it, the scooters are a blast.

Neither argument is wrong. I would go as far to suggest both are correct.

As a community, we should welcome new technologies, rather than giving into a knee-jerk reaction based on a fear of the unknown. But we should also consider ways the technology works best for our community.

So, my advice: get out and use the scooters, or at least observe those who are. I see a lot of smiles out there. I also see a lot of close calls. Whatever your experiences have been, share them. With us. With your council member. Have the scooters been helpful? Where did you go? Are people following the rules? If not, what types of problems are you seeing? This kind of feedback can create discussion and drive good policy.

At the end of the day, these scooters could be a very good thing for Rochester — but only if we are realistic about the potential dangers and the need for honest dialogue. Because if we learned anything from our face-planting friend is that we need to take this slow, keep an eye out for obstacles ahead, but no matter what — don’t just slam the brakes.

Sean Baker is a Rochester journalist and the founder of Med City Beat.

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