Are electric scooters an urban scourge, or the latest innovation in personal transportation? I’m leaning toward the latter.

“I don’t think you can stop them.” That’s what one friend said as we discussed the phenomenon — I’d never thought about them much at all, least of all as inevitable. Then all of a sudden there were 100 scooters on State Street.

I came upon one after lunch, unlocked it, and pushed off. Not ready to ride on State Street, I turned onto Arlington Avenue and immediately encountered the Public Works impound crew: “People are riding them on the sidewalk.”

“People ride bicycles on the sidewalk,” I countered. I set a record for the shortest scooter ride.

Some think scooters are great fun, and I suspect tourists will love them. Scooters aren’t bikes, so, as a board member of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, why should I care? Some of my bike pals are quite cool toward scooters, but to me they have value, even though you don’t get any exercise.

Here’s my theory: If the city were to embrace the scooter, more people would try them. Then the next time there’s a discussion of bike lanes at City Council, there’ll be more people participating, hundreds more possibly. Why am I so sure?

If you ride a bike or a scooter you know — the automobile, which is operated in an increasingly distracted manner, is a threat to your ability to get home safely. We need more bike lanes, like the new one on Cota Street.

The more people who ride scooters, the fewer car trips there will be, especially in the downtown core along State Street. That means less congestion, less pollution, and more parking spaces for those who do drive.

Let’s keep an open mind. Scooters represent a step toward the Santa Barbara of the future, where people get around without having to own an automobile.


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