IT’S PERSONAL NOW
I’ve been quiet about the scooter kerfuffle. Torn both ways.
It is a pretty clean mode of transportation, an environmentally good way of getting from here to there. But the here to there is usually pretty short, I suspect. People are not going to Culver City or Westwood by scooter. Scooter scoots, I’m observing, may in large part be just for fun, or be replacing walking. And walking is very good for you. So, there may be a down side in that respect. A generation of scooter heads is a generation who won’t walk six blocks, because there’s a scooter right there, pick it up, hop on, whee, why walk?
Some longer scoots do replace car or Uber rides, and that’s good for traffic reduction. But unless you’ve got an electric or hybrid car or Uber, which many of us here do, you’re still burning electricity, for nightly charging. Hybrids generally self-generate their electricity through driving.
So it’s looking less like such an environmental bargain. But here in Santa Monica, appearances count, hey it looks good on the resume, and our selected leaders are madly in love with anything “environmental” (don’t dig too deep).
This scooter thing fits right in with our picture of ourselves as a progressive little city by the sea. Lots of happy, smiling people whizzing around our streets, not burning fossil fuels, not further snarling traffic gridlock, not needing parking spaces, the sharing economy, the wave of the future. Anything wrong with this picture?
THEY ARE E-V-E-R-Y-WHERE
The gripe most locals have about the scooters is that. I mean, everywhere. Thousands of them. They’re left in our driveways, doorways, on wheelchair ramps, in streets, alleys, bike paths, on beaches, everywhere. Check your closet. It’s an invasion of biblical proportions.
It happened overnight, last September. (Bird. Lime scooters showed up last month.) Suddenly, there are literally thousands of Bird scooters all over our City, transforming it, for good or bad. They refuse to tell us how many there are.
With Bird happened without notice to or permit by the City. It was illegal. What did we do? It was a clear example of intentionally choosing to ask forgiveness rather than ask permission. Dump your product in a city and see what happens. Why, before they can rein you in or even fine you, you have already established yourself with thousands of users who will scream bloody murder if you try to take their new toy away. So, what did we do?
Our City government has responded now with little bitty, long term, partial adjustments. After a year of Birds, next September we will start a 16-month “trial” to see how it goes. What? I think most people who live here can give you an opinion on that, after a whole year.
In some other cities, it didn’t happen that way. If Bird came in unpermitted, some city governments acted swiftly and decisively, impounding scooters and forcing Bird to work with them. But here, we’re easy, if you are wearing a green tag. The City didn’t even file a lawsuit for six months, and by then Bird was nicely nested.
But forget all the inconvenience, of scooters everywhere. The real threat is that this business, by any company, at its core, of scooters for pickup and drop-off anywhere, is in my opinion a serious danger to riders and those “in their way,” and someone is going to get killed.
AND WHEN THEY DO
Who will have blood on their hands? I’ve drawn my conclusion, you are welcome to your own.
This is a business so unenforceable for safety that it is inevitable that some helmetless rider is going to lose their balance and lose their life. We have already come literally within inches of that here, more than once. People, some of them kids, are on the street with cars and trucks, on a motorized toy, really, without the minimum protection. It’s too easy to ignore and violate the vendor’s rules. It just seems to me so blatantly dangerous that I believe our City Council should have erred on the side of caution on day one, but even now can opt for strict enforcement, at least of the helmet and age laws, with heavy fines for riders who violate.
If you ride on or in a vehicle on the streets, with other vehicles, there is an inherent danger. Some people will be involved in accidents, some people will die.
But these scooters are a different ballgame. The scooter, unlike cars or even bikes, is so light and mobile, you can zip across an entire street in two seconds, right in front of an oncoming car, missing by inches, apparently for kicks because of the big grin on your face and the eye contact you made with the horrified driver who thought for an instant he was about to take a life.
Yeah, killing someone on the street, even when it’s clearly their doing and no fault of yours, can ruin your whole day. And yeah, I was that driver, on Main Street, and for all the thousands of violations I had observed by scooters, that one made it heart-stoppingly real.
Please, Council, Police, do something before we have to print that terrible headline.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: On a much lighter note — though I was certainly heavier when I left — what about Mel’s? I have to now chime in with all the locals singing the praise of Mel’s Diner, still in their soft opening. It’s pretty easy to get some things wrong, opening a new diner when we’ve recently lost our other two. Santa Monicans are so demanding and picky anyway, right? But they seem to have paid a lot of attention to where they are and the history of the building. Kept the lava rock wall, even uncovered a hidden one. Wide open spaces inside. Great jukebox at every table. Not cheap, but not too bad. Terrific wait staff (you might even get the owner’s son). Really varied menu for a diner, from the decadent short ribs sandwich I had to the vegan and vegetarian dishes. I can’t wait to try the Kentucky Coffee, with bourbon-infused sake and vanilla, around 2 a.m., when they go 24 hours.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.” — Bob Dylan
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org