Scourge of Summer: Scooters.
I was wrong. I admit it.
When hundreds of Bird electric scooters appeared - overnight - in Virginia Beach last summer I thought they looked like fun. I also thought that the lemon suckers who immediately wanted to either outlaw e-scooters or find a way to collect taxes for the privilege of rolling along our city streets were serial spoilsports.
They sounded like the same bunch of nannies who wanted to keep the North End surfing ban a few years ago. The same cranks who wanted to limit the number of outdoor cafes. The same grumps who dislike food trucks, Airbnbs and Uber.
This is a beach town. Would it kill us to just let folks have fun?
But this past weekend changed my mind. At the risk of sounding like I’ve joined the get-off-my-lawn geezers, we’ve got to do something about the invasion of these rolling nuisances before someone’s paralyzed or killed.
It’s just a matter of time.
Scooters are suddenly everywhere. If you don’t believe me, head out to the oceanfront next weekend and see for yourself.
But be careful. These e-scooters can travel at up to 16 mph and some of the people riding on them are idiots.
I was hit - OK, grazed - by one on Saturday afternoon while walking along Oceanfront Avenue. The dude riding the scooter kept going, but turned to give me an apologetic wave - or the finger, I couldn’t tell - and in the process almost impaled another woman emerging from her driveway.
She and I shared a few expletives about our assailant. The jerk was riding on the wrong side of the road and had a cell phone in one hand.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t my only encounter.
E-scooters aren’t allowed on the boardwalk or the bike path that runs parallel to it, but you’d never know it given the number of these silent machines zipping along. On Sunday, when I pedaled down the path, I not only had to watch out for the usual dazed tourists who don’t realize they’re loitering in a bike lane, and those ridiculous surreys with a minimum of five delirious drunks on board, but now scooters. Dozens of them.
They were weaving in and out of folks strolling on the boardwalk and whizzing past those of us on bicycles in the already cluttered bike lane.
Look, I know that many believe these dockless electric scooters are the environmentally responsible transportation of the future. Maybe they are. They’re certainly preferable to 19th century technology like light rail. But they’re hazardous in congested areas with lots of pedestrians.
If they’re banned from sidewalks - they are - and can’t co-exist with bicycles on bike paths - they can’t - the only place left for e-scooters is on streets where they’re competing for space with SUVs. Where’s the fun in that?
According to the Bird website, their scooters are in 100-plus cities worldwide. What they don’t tell you is they’ve also been banned in a number of places including San Francisco and Manhattan.
The main problem with e-scooters is the Ninja business model, which seems to entail sprinkling a locality with scooters under the cover of darkness and waiting to see what happens. Cities are left scrambling to regulate them.
Because they’re dockless, riders are able to ditch the scooters anywhere. That’s a big part of the attraction but it also means carelessly cast-off scooters quickly become a public nuisance. I counted nine dumped along 30th Street between the boardwalk and Pacific.
Ideally scooters should be left at a bike rack, but in a city with few racks like Virginia Beach, the scooters are strewn like dead soldiers all over the oceanfront. They’re tossed on sidewalks. In the street. I even saw an abandoned scooter in the middle of the boardwalk bike path Sunday afternoon.
If the people riding electric scooters don’t have any common sense - and many don’t - the Beach will be forced to regulate or, worse, ban them.
When that happens, don't blame us. We were prepared to like you. Until you tried to flatten us.