Roar writer Aurora Sosveen argues that legalising e-scooters in London will harm the city’s public health rather than improve it.
A recent call from MP’s suggested that we legalise e-scooters all over the country as a greener alternative to the short journeys often made by car. While some regions have permitted a trial, e-scooters are currently banned from London. However, this might change, and soon yet another European city will be infested with e-scooters.
We must question the need for e-scooters in the first place. Introducing e-scooters as an alternative means of transport aimed at shorter journeys seems to ignore the resources we already have – our legs. Rather than using e-scooters, we should perhaps, as TfL encourages, “walk that trip”. Or, if the journey is too long to be made by foot, use a bicycle or public transport.
Further, there are a number of practical and legal concerns that must be established before any actual introduction of e-scooters. Lack of regulation is what lead to the infestation in so many other cities, now serving as a stark warning to the UK. MP’s would have to decide where these e-scooters are to be parked, where they are allowed to drive, who will be responsible for clearing them from unwanted spaces, pulling them out of the Thames, the list goes on. There are also basic safety concerns for pedestrians, for if e-scooters are not part of traffic but also not allowed to hog up cycle lanes, the only remaining option seems to be pushing pedestrians off London’s already narrow pavements.
The e-scooter would gradually take over pedestrians instead of the drivers it was aimed at. E-scooting across Waterloo Bridge on a blustery day is clearly more appealing than walking across it. Thus, the short journeys we make by foot are already vulnerable and are at great risk of being replaced. Instead of promoting public health in the city, e-scooters will reduce it. While they may alleviate some pollution if we are lucky to convert any car drivers, they will trick us into walking less for the sake of convenience. Surely it is better to prioritise pavements, car-free areas, cycle lanes, and other measures that encourage physical movement with people at the centre.
The e-scooters stranded on every pavement will undoubtedly be an eyesore, but for many these deserted rats of technology will pose significant problems when it comes to accessibility. Imagine being a wheelchair-user suddenly facing a dead e-scooter blocking your way. There is too much traffic to risk using the road and the pavement is too narrow to go around it. What are they expected to do, wait for someone to remove it? How can we allow dead technology to restrict the movement of our citizens? Impeding the accessibility of our city is not only unjust, but signals that new technology is more important than the living humans that may suffer the consequences of it.
Of course, there are improvements to be made in terms of cycling lanes, pedestrian facilitation, and accessibility. But this should only encourage MP’s to focus on improving our existing infrastructure rather than introducing a quick-fix piece of clickbait-technology. The associated bureaucracy is reason alone to oppose this legalisation. But more importantly, a city should be built around its citizens, not automobiles and their diseased e-scooter offspring.