Are e-scooters helping or hurting the environment? | The Tylt

Are e-scooters helping or hurting the environment?

The e-scooter trend is just one year old, yet it's revolutionized transportation in cities like L.A., Austin, and Denver. Much to fans' delight, e-scooter companies like Bird and Lime hope to bring their machines to as many cities as possible, providing an affordable option for transportation with minimal environmental impact. But some argue e-scooter rider habits and charging systems actually hurt the environment, and the craze calls for more regulation. What do you think? 

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E-scooters are still a young trend. Bird first launched its scooter-sharing service in Santa Monica in September of 2017. According to The Verge's Andrew Hawkins: 

Since then, it has grown to over 100 cities, facilitated over 10 million rides, and raised cash at an unprecedented pace.

Hawkins also interviewed Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden, who pointed out the company's eco-driven mission in relation to the cities playing host to e-scooters: 

When we talk to cities about our mission of reducing car trips and traffic and carbon emissions, it 100 percent aligns with the cities’ goals.
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E-scooters typically cost $1 to begin a ride and $0.15 per minute after that. Affordable pricing, ease-of-use and quick transit times have made e-scooters skyrocket in popularity, making their true environmental impact an essential question moving forward. Hawkins looked to a number of transportation experts for insight: 

'What’s been most surprising from a public perspective is the pace at which the e-scooters are being formalized into cities,' Juan Matute, deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, said in an email. 'They provide a direct and tangible mobility benefit. Now a year after launch, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities have formalized their existence. The public sector doesn’t always move that fast, but I think that it has is estimate to the e-scooters viability as a beneficial, zero emissions, low-footprint mode for places seeking to move beyond the dominance of the automobile.'
#ILoveScooters

In Austin, Texas, a number of transportation organizations wrote to the Austin City Council, urging the city to increase bike and scooter protection. These organizations recognize the environmental benefit alternate modes of transportation, like e-scooters, provide. They wrote: 

Small, electric-powered, emissions-free vehicles such as e-bikes and scooters are part of Austin's path forward to a more climate-friendly transportation system and can dramatically extend the range where car-free trips are an attractive and realistic option. In light of the IPCC's recent special report Global Warming of 1.5°C on the dire need and difficult path forward to achieving the climate goals agreed to at the Paris convention, the time for solutions like this is now.
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But the immediate popularity of e-scooters caused its own host of issues. The e-scooter trend grew so quickly that it was hard for some cities to keep up, and many now complain the scooters clutter sidewalks and act as a public safety risk. 

In addition to these complaints, there is some question as to the overall environmental impact of e-scooters. Unlike most bike-sharing systems, e-scooters don't have designated docks where riders must take and leave their vehicle. Instead, riders use an app to identify where scooters are, ride them to their destination and leave the scooter abandoned for the next rider to pick up. At the end of the day, the scooters are collected by people who have signed up to be "chargers." They round up the scooters and charge them overnight, making some money in the process. 

According to Inhabitat, a green lifestyle site, this charging system might be the lurking linchpin to the question of environmental impact; if chargers use cars to pick up scooters, for instance, they are likely counteracting the carbon emissions saved by scooter-riders. 

The higher valuations on the remote scooters means that chargers are likely to drive farther to and from the stranded scooters, consuming more gas and emitting more carbon dioxide in the process. Similarly, morning commuters who wake up to find an empty dropping pad might eagerly run back to their reliable, personal vehicles instead of public transportation, because they are in a time-crunch. Whether these factors are being taken into account by the companies in their statistics is unclear.
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Furthermore, the longevity of the scooters themselves should also be taken into account. With no way to regulate care for the machines, the scooters have a relatively short life-cycle. It's not uncommon to see scooters left split in half on sidewalks–likely run over by other scooters. 

Inhabitat looks to Haje Jan Kamps, portfolio director at venture capital firm Bolt for insight on e-scooters' long-term impact: 

'They are currently in a massive scaling mode and so the only concern they have, really, is to get as many scooters on the roads as possible and as many rides as possible for each individual scooter...There is a real risk that some of the things like reusability or recyclability might be first on the chopping block.' The scooters are estimated to have a two-year life span, meaning they could end up in landfills at the end of their short life-cycle.
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In cities still untouched by e-scooters, governments are taking a proactive approach in order to limit any negative consequences from the machines. In New York, e-scooters are technically banned due to a 2004 law passed to prevent Segways from being on the streets. But according to the New York Daily News, the city will be deciding on legislation to legalize e-scooters in the next few months. 

According to Curbed's Amy Plitt, the city still has reservations: 

There are obvious challenges to bringing e-scooters to New York’s congested streets, namely safety—they’re intended for use in bike lanes, but users in other cities haven’t always followed that rule—and where to put them. 

Safety, infrastructure and environmental concerns should be addressed before e-scooters descend upon cities in the way they have along the west coast. 

FINAL RESULTS
Culture
Are e-scooters helping or hurting the environment?
#ILoveScooters
A festive crown for the winner
#GoodbyeScooters