Public Opinion on Electric Scooters: How Things Have Changed
Have Public Opinion's on Electric Scooters Changed Over the Years?
Electric scooters have been on the market for more than two decades now and public opinion has changed drastically over time. Though these personal electric vehicles have their detractors, they are becoming a more and more popular option for modern commuting. Here’s what you need to know about public opinion on electric scooters and how it has changed over time.
How electric scooters have been viewed historically
Mechanical scooters have been in use since the 19th century, having originally been made of wood. While motorized scooters arose shortly after this, in 1916, the first electric scooters started major production in the early 1940s, when French inventors Maurice and Albert Limelette opened SOCOVEL, a company that produced electric bikes as its main export but ramped up production of electric scooters due to their compact build and popularity. The first widely available e-scooters came to the market in 1996 from Peugeot. Different models and makers joined the market and as of the 2010s, e-scooters had become a major competitor in the electric vehicle market.
Originally, electric scooters were seen as little more than a novelty for the well-off, who could afford the expensive and inefficient machines. Indeed, they became associated with the “tech bro” image of upstart tech moguls in the early 2000s, which gave them a somewhat sour reputation. In 2018, companies innovated their scooter technology using lithium-ion batteries, which were more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, and by implementing dockless e-scooters for public renting. By making the scooter more available and accessible to a wider range of people, these companies caused a boom in the market that significantly improved the image of the e-scooter, making it a more popular choice.
Since then, the e-scooter has become more and more popular and has been seen as a potential solution to long-term environmental and commuting concerns.
Modern views on electric scooters
As of 2018, an average of 70.5% of Americans surveyed in 10 of the United States’ major cities said that they viewed e-scooters positively as an alternative mode of transportation. Still, the issue remains contentious; there are strong arguments both for and against the use of electric scooters on a city-wide scale.
The argument for electric scooters
Electric scooters have long been touted as an eco-friendly alternative to driving, and in some cases, this is very much true. The BBC released a report in 2020 citing various statistical pieces which note that in some areas of the world, up to 43% of commuters would have used private cars to get where they needed to go if public e-scooter programs had not been available to them, and many people reported that they were using their own vehicles less in general since gaining access to e-scooters.
Additionally, according to a report from Arizona State University in 2020, electric scooters were significantly seen as a more convenient and often safer transportation option in hot weather than walking; in this case, interviewed participants cited the fact that riding an e-scooter is often faster and less stressful on the body than walking, which can help reduce the risk for heat-related health conditions - a growing concern in a world affected by severe climate change.
Finally, bringing electric scooters into the commuting environment may bring some accessibility. Scooters do not require the pedaling that biking does and can be easier than walking for some people, which can make accessing public transport slightly easier for those with certain disabilities or issues of access such as distance from train or bus stations. They can also bring a bit of levity; e-scooters are still considered something of a novelty and their introduction to commuting can make it more fun, motivating people to be out and about more often.
The argument against electric scooters
Of course there are arguments against the implementation of electric scooters as a major mode of transport. Most of these arguments revolve around the mass implementation of e-scooters through services like Skip, Scoot, Bird, Lime, and others.
The first major point is the problem of longevity. As of 2019, most mass-use public scooters were lasting on average only a few months - six to eight being the most common lifespan. This meant that there were mass scooter graveyards creating more unnecessary waste. That being said, new designs are improving the longevity of mass-use scooters to more than two years in some cases. Even better, a personal electric scooter can last up to five years if properly maintained.
The next concern is that of safety; e-scooters are among the smallest vehicles in the shared commuting space, making them more difficult for large vehicles like cars and buses to see and avoid, which may lead to more accidents. There is also the issue of many scooter riders not wearing the appropriate safety gear; some reports note that as few as 4% of riders are wearing helmets.
Some experts argue that the rise in personal electric vehicle use could actually push for safer roads, though. They note that cities with high personal vehicle traffic can be incentivized to invest in walkable infrastructure, which would improve access not just for scooter riders, but also for cyclists and pedestrians. The issue of helmets might also be resolved with accessibility adjustments; simply making people aware of the dangers and their comparability to cycling may increase helmet usage, as may simple legislation around safety requirements for personal electric vehicles.
Electric scooters aren’t perfect, but they are a massive step in the right direction. With appropriate innovation and time, these vehicles can help solve some of the major issues surrounding transportation in our world.
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