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  • Adam Tarshis

Should Scootering be a Private Affair?

The Irish Times published an opinion piece titled “Scootering should be a private affair” with a focus on the problem of scooter sharing schemes and urging the Irish government not to legalise them. The original article can be found here: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/scootering-should-be-a-private-affair-1.3999998

Anadue agrees that scooter and bike-sharing may not always be perfect for a city, but there are many benefits too. It is a way of reducing the dependency on cars for moving people around, reducing congestion and pollution. It’s also a very convenient option versus owning your own scooter / ebike, which requires storage space, charging, pushing on to a train carriage in rush hour, risk of theft when left outside, etc.

The overwhelming factor for people to move from their own cars to another mode of transport is convenience. Dockless and semi-dockless scooter and bike sharing are very convenient indeed, as evidenced by the very rapid take-up elsewhere in the world.

The challenge is to achieve the benefits while minimising the negative consequences, rather than just banning shared schemes outright.

For example, the inconsiderate parking of scooters can be a problem, but when you consider the space currently allocated to parking cars, a slight adjustment to curbside allocations can quickly resolve this. Cars spend around 95% of their time parked. Reducing the number of cars and parking spaces would return real estate back to the city, to make more parks, playgrounds, pedestrianised areas, living space, bike/scooter lanes and bike racks.

Cities have been modified over the last 100 years to incorporate mass car use, but that clearly creates a mass of problems, not least in congestion, pollution, parking space required, road safety for pedestrians and so on. We need a way to get people to use cleaner transport, in a convenient way. Shared scooters and bikes, and their convenience, are a big step in the right direction, even though there are clearly problems with their use, and in educating people to use them properly.

So let’s not focus on the simplistic solution: "Keep them out". Let’s focus on a more positive "How can we make these new transport services acceptable?"

We need to understand how to create the right conditions for newer, cleaner ride-sharing options to operate safely and efficiently in cities.

Tools and technologies can be introduced that facilitate the creation of the right conditions for this. There are technologies being developed today to prevent scooters from being used on pavements, or parked illegally in areas of the city where they should not be. Riders will be incentivised to park or ride responsibly, or even fined, using the sharing app. This kind of enforcement is already active in other cities, but will become far more effective through the use of upcoming new-generation technologies being developed locally. Dublin has a number of tech companies focusing on transport and ride sharing technologies, companies including Anadue, Transpoco, Taoglas and Firmwave. To focus in on what Anadue is doing for a moment, by continuously analysing all the journeys taken using shared bikes and scooters, we can inform the city exactly how many vehicles are parked in each area at any time, and how many dedicated parking spaces are needed to get them off the pavements. Similarly, we can inform transport planners which roads are the most popular routes for shared mobility e-bikes and scooters. This can improve safety by redesigning road junctions and the allocation of dedicated cycle/scooter lanes where the traffic already justifies there presence. We can even demonstrate the effect of increased e-bike/scooter use has on other traffic. Is congestion easing and journey times improving, or are things getting worse?

DCU, in partnership with Smart Dublin and the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, is actively supporting innovation in these areas as well, through the provision of safe 'test bed' environments for these new, Irish-developed micromobility technologies to be validated.

These new technologies helps city councils create the right permit regulations, and enforce permit regulations, to make sure sharing companies are playing on the same field, that’s acceptable to the city and its citizens.

We have the opportunity to build infrastructure to support ride-sharing and personal use of scooters, bikes, ebikes, skateboards, unicycles and even walking!

The benefits of reduced congestion, cleaner air, convenience, flexibility and overall improvements in safety can be demonstrated to everyone, so the focus should be to resolve the problems and move forward, not resist progress. Let's give cities and transport providers the tools they need to make sure everyone on a shared scooter or bike has a good experience, along with everyone sharing the roads with them.

The next 100 years will see a massive revolution in transport. We need to support new modes of transport, and to educate and incentivise people into using them responsibly.

It's time to reclaim our cities from the cars.

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