As sketchy as it is to get in a car with a stranger that you just booked through an app on your phone, technology has now given us a new way to risk our lives during our travels.
I’m talking, of course, about these electric scooters that are absolutely taking over in major cities right now. Nashville already has three companies operating scooters downtown, Bird, Lime, and Lyft, and the city council just approved TWO MORE companies to unleash these death machines on the city.
These scooters are pretty easy to use. You just download an app, find a scooter near you (if you live in an area where these scooters operate the sidewalks are probably littered with them), scan the QR code, and go. Then you just park it back on the sidewalk once you’ve reached your destination. They’re cheap, and surprisingly easy to ride – once you get the hang of it.
The problem is, with thousands of these scooters operating downtown, it’s almost impossible to drive without having to dodge the drunken riders swerving in front of your car or running red lights because they think traffic laws don’t apply to scooters. But they’re not just on the roads like they’re supposed to be. These maniacs are all over the sidewalks too, flying past you as you try to walk down Broadway and find a bar not playing “Wagon Wheel.” And then instead of being parked out of the way like they’re supposed to be, most of the time they’re just lying there blocking the sidewalks and waiting for their next rider. You can probably see why businesses and locals hate these things.
And they’re dangerous. These scooters go up to 15 mph, and they’re meant to be driven in the road alongside regular traffic. Now of course there’s a city ordinance requiring scooter riders to wear a helmet, but we all know that: 1) nobody actually knows that, and 2) nobody’s wearing a damn helmet when they ride a scooter. That’s a recipe for disaster.
But here’s the thing: Those scooters are fun as hell to ride. My girlfriend and I decided to try them out a few weeks ago, so we headed downtown, downloaded the apps, and within a couple of minutes we were weaving in and out of traffic alongside the rest of the millennial scum that we love to hate. And let me tell you, it was a thrill.
We decided to go somewhere less crowded to ride around, so we made our way across the pedestrian bridge to Nissan Stadium and their wide open parking lots. But as we were crossing the bridge, disaster almost struck. Right when we got to the bottom of the bridge, my girlfriend realized that the brakes were out on her scooter and she had to abandon ship to keep from sailing into the road. Now, luckily she was able to keep her balance as she jumped off and wasn’t hurt, but man, if that had happened at a busy intersection, that one could have been bad.
So what did we do after that? We kept riding those damn scooters, that’s what. (She found another one nearby that actually had brakes, of course). With the entire Nissan Stadium parking lot as our playground, we were racing each other like Earnhardt and Petty, setting up obstacle courses and laughing at the peasants on foot who were clearly judging these two 30-year olds acting like children in a parking lot on a Saturday afternoon.
These scooter companies bill themselves as a means of transportation for the “last mile” of your travel. They try to set it up so that anywhere you have to park, you’re no more than a few steps away from a scooter to take you to your final destination. If I had to guess, though, I would say more people ride them for fun than for convenience. And after riding them myself, I see why.