Friends of Zilker position on Scooters / e-vehicles

Greetings! I’d like to propose the following ballot language as an up or down vote to define the Friends of Zilker position on the many electric / dock less vehicles recently introduced into Austin:

  • “Friends of Zilker supports infrastructure for multimodal transportation within the neighborhood and connecting to adjacent neighborhoods.”

  • “Friends of Zilker does not support additional regulations on alternative forms of transportation such as electric scoots, bicycles, electric boards, etc. Friends of Zilker supports single occupancy lightweight transit options to reduce traffic and increase movability throughout the neighborhood and into adjacent neighborhoods, parks, etc.”

  • “Friends of Zilker supports the ability to use single occupancy electric transit vehicles on the existing hike and bike trail network.”

JP, I fully support the first two stances, but the third one is problematic. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but Bird and Lime scooters are specifically not intended for use on anything other than a paved surface (nor are electric scooters generally). Even relatively smooth gravel or dirt paths can easily knock a scooter over, simply because they have no form of “shock absorbers” and even a tiny dip or disruption in path smoothness is enough to result in an accident. And while I haven’t looked into it specifically, I’m guessing electric boards have the same problem.

Electric-assist bikes are another story, of course, and should plainly be allowed anywhere bicycles are already permitted, but in part for this reason, I don’t think it’d be a good idea to lump all “electric transit vehicles” into the same category in such a fashion.

I agree with Jeff on this.

First, based on a discussion with another member earlier, it was pointed out that I should explain a bit how this works.

I’ve proposed three items for a ballot vote of the members. Anyone can do this by posting in this category if they have something they would like to be put to a member vote. The purpose of posting it here is to open up discussion for the language and/or additional items that should be on the ballot.

To Jeff’s point specifically. You make a good point. And allowing scooters on the hike n bike trail is probably the most controversial of the items.

My counter point would be that you don’t regulate if street bicycles could be on the hike n bike trail. We live in a free society where people have to take responsibility for their actions. I’ve also ridden the scooters on a variety of terrain. In my opinion they are perfectly acceptable for hard packed gravel like the hike n bike trail. I would have no hesitation. But even if you would, is that reason enough to legislate it?

A fourth item I’d propose:

  • Friends of Zilker supports all vehicles should adhere to regular traffic laws. All enforcement of such laws should apply to electric single occupancy vehicles the same as cars or bicycles.

Related: https://blog.remix.com/first-platform-to-manage-new-mobility-and-design-streets-4ff6e5b1cf39

Sorry, missed this post earlier.

Yes. First, “street” bicycles can be safely used on the hike-and-bike trails; scooters can’t – which brings me to my second point: your opinion on the subject does not appear to gel with the facts. While there’s admittedly a dearth of information on this specific topic, I’d point out that one of Razor’s models is the RX200 Electric Off-Road Scooter, which you can read about on its Amazon review page. Here’s part of its product description:

With the trailblazing new RX200, the ride begins where the pavement ends. Beefed up to withstand tough terrain, the RX200 features off-road tires, disc brake and a new gear ratio for high-torque trail riding, making it off-road ready right out of the gate.

The clear inference here is that its other scooters are not intended for off-road use – as Razor’s own marketing materials indicate: the RX200 is the off-road version of its E200 scooter, which is intended for use on pavement. Further, while it took a fair amount of digging, I finally managed to figure out that both Bird and Lime use customized versions of the Ninebot by Segway ES2 scooter, and you can ascertain from its Amazon listing that its closest Razor equivalent would be the E200, not the RX200 (e.g. it lacks off-road tires and disc brakes).

Finally, as for legislating it more generally: while like you I oppose excessive regulation, where we differ is that I support reasonable regulations intended to promote legitimate safety concerns. I know the libertarian argument is that helmet and seat belt laws are wrong (at least for adults), and that people should have the freedom to make their own choices (even stupid ones like not wearing helmets), but … well, people need to be protected from themselves sometimes, which is why seat belt use is mandatory nationwide and helmet use is mandatory in many American cities, though admittedly it’s not in a number of states (including Texas).

The difference with respect to scooters, however, is that a scooter user who loses control of it is considerably more likely to injure others than someone on either a bicycle or motorcycle not wearing a helmet who crashes (and whose injuries are nearly always limited to self-injury - or at least helmut use / non-use rarely impacts those they hit). This is all the more likely in areas with a lot of traffic on foot or bike – and the hike-and-bike trail arguably has the most of it anywhere in town. And while I completely agree that overregulating innovative technology can effectively smother it in its crib, I’d also point out that a bunch of serious or fatal accidents can do the same – especially if they were preventable, e.g. by prohibiting electric scooters on unpaved paths.

Friends of Zilker supports all vehicles should adhere to regular traffic laws. All enforcement of such laws should apply to electric single occupancy vehicles the same as cars or bicycles.

While I think this is an improvement over your earlier wording, I still think you need to differentiate between different types of electric-assist vehicles. (Also, to nit-pick a bit, you don’t “occupy” a bike, scooter or board per se; you ride it. As such I’d go with “single-rider” instead of “single occupancy.”) Another problem is that some of the electric vehicles in questions are bicycles, so the end clause (“same as cars or bicycles”) is imprecise in that context as well.

Thanks @jeffkirk I appreciate your input. But I still feel like you aren’t following what the purpose here is. It’s to propose some ballot language for a vote. My fourth item that all vehicles need to adhere to traffic laws - was just that a fourth item, not a replacement for the above item(s).

Taking what you have said in its totality, I’m getting that you don’t have an issue with the wording of these ballot proposals.

I will disagree with you on one point, a Scooter, in my opinion, has less potential of harming others than say an out of control bicycle. The later being capable of going much faster and having much more metal and overall force.

Overall the discussion here is primarily to decide on the language that will be put to the vote. If the Friends of Zilker vote NO to scooters on the trail, then that’s the position we will take.

The secondary point of the discussion is once the ballot language is decided upon, if you’d like to express your opinion on how people should vote and why, that’s fine.

I guess you seem to be arguing with me assuming I am a YES on all of these. While that may or may not be my personal opinion, it’s not the point of the discussion in this thread.

And yes if you’re curious, my personal opinion is, If the Scooter is capable of being operated on a terrain that should be at the discretion of the scooter rider.

But again, my intention here, is to compose language that in an up or down vote isn’t reflective of that opinion but instead proposes the choice equally. For example, we could modify the language to include something like “scooters that indicate they are trail ready” or some such.

Taking what you have said in its totality, I’m getting that you don’t have an issue with the wording of these ballot proposals.

I think you may have overlooked my comment that “occupancy” is not the correct term for riding a bike or scooter, so yes, I have an issue with the wording in that regard.

I will disagree with you on one point, a Scooter, in my opinion, has less potential of harming others than say an out of control bicycle. The later being capable of going much faster and having much more metal and overall force.

I think you’re still missing my point – and btw I agree with you that an out-of-control bicycle is likely to do far more damage than an out-of-control scooter. My point, rather, is that it is many times more likely for a scooter rider to lose control in the first place than it is for a bicyclist. Whereas relatively few bicycle accidents are the result of “user error,” they’ve already become common on scooters – including multiple crashes resulting in serious injury in Austin just in the past few months, and a fatality two weeks ago in Dallas on a Lime scooter that “split in half” (none of which involved a third party at fault - see bottom).

But again, my intention here, is to compose language that in an up or down vote isn’t reflective of that opinion but instead proposes the choice equally.

Fair enough. I would propose the following alternative language: "Friends of Zilker supports the ability to use single-rider electric transit vehicles throughout all parts of the city where they can safely be used.”

https://www.dallasnews.com/news/dallas/2018/09/03/dallas-man-24-dies-day-after-apparent-electric-scooter-accident

https://www.statesman.com/news/new-details-ems-confirms-scooter-witness-describes-horrible-crash-south-austin/Ko6Uy31Xc451JetLZSAEJP/

Just in response to your FUD over scooter safety:

I’m looking for something that explicitly addresses the issue of the trail network since PARD has previously stated they are illegal and riders will be ticketed.

So: 28 scooter crashes and at least two resulted in severe injuries (in one case a woman in a coma). And you think this helps your argument??

Again, I don’t have an argument, but I do think it helps to put it in perspective. All forms of transit has risks.