By Chris Rising
In recent months, the Los Angeles area has seen a dramatic increase in the number of electric scooters (e-scooters) on the roads, particularly on the Westside in the neighborhoods of Venice and Santa Monica. We should expect to see more e-scooters in other parts of LA now that the Transportation Committee has approved guidelines for dockless electric scooter companies to operate within city limits, especially in DTLA. We also believe cities with thriving urban cores like Glendale, Pasadena, Burbank, and Long Beach will soon see an influx.
The question is, what will real estate companies do to accommodate this new mode of transportation? At Rising, we have plans to incorporate these “last mile” gadgets to improve our tenants' experience in our projects.
To date, the craze is dockless electric scooters, though we believe we will see a variety of other small electric vehicles come to the streets. In my opinion, the popularity of e-scooters can be attributed to several factors:
Easy personal transportation. E-scooters appear to me most useful for traveling short distances, for rides too short to warrant an Uber, or in areas where traffic is dense and traveling by car is slow and inefficient.
They solve the first-mile, last-mile problem. E-scooters are an easy way to get to and from fixed-route public transit that’s just slightly too far to walk to, and they may even encourage people to utilize local public transit more regularly, by bridging that distance gap.
Convenience. Dockless electric scooters are easy to use. Companies like Bird and Lime have a user-friendly app that allows users to locate a nearby Scooter, hop on, and leave it when they arrive at their destination. At $1 per ride and 15 cents per minute used, it’s faster and more affordable than driving or ride-sharing.
Environmentally-friendly. By opting for an e-scooter, users cut back on fuel consumption, meaning fewer cars on the road, less traffic, and a reduced carbon footprint.
They’re just fun. Traffic concerns make driving in major cities a source of stress for daily commuters. E-scooters provide an enjoyable alternative to driving, while still getting you from Point A to Point B.
But e-scooters have certain issues that, eventually, must be addressed.
Safety concerns. E-scooters create safety issues for both users and non-users. For instance, users are required to wear their own helmet by law, but you’ll often find people riding without one. And while the ease of using a dockless scooter is appealing, it means more clutter on sidewalks or streets. Without a designated docking area, scooters are left haphazardly in public areas that obstruct pedestrian walkways.
Reckless driving. Users are supposed to ride e-scooters on the road with cars, or in the bike lane to separate them from pedestrians. But it’s not unusual to see someone speeding down a crowded sidewalk on an e-scooter at 15 mph.
Lack of regulations. These vehicles are new and gained popularity so quickly that they are largely unregulated. What regulations we have are focused on the scooter companies themselves far more than users. Instead, cities are relying on rules previously made for bicycles, rather than ones that take into account the unique aspects of e-scooters.
Until municipalities can catch up and establish ordinances to regulate dockless electric scooters, property owners have to be prepared for the influx of vehicles on the roads and sidewalks. Here are steps Rising will be taking to ensure tenant safety and comfort:
Dedicated parking areas. This will reduce the number of scooters left at random locations and will keep our tenants' walkways unobstructed. This is not to suggest the establishment of docks, similar to those for current city bike programs, but will simply provide more parking spaces for e-scooters in designated areas of our projects.
Cooperating with city governments. As a property owner, we are proactively reaching out to cities to create solutions for the safety of our tenants, including implementing bike/scooter lanes, providing helmet lockers and offering overnight charging options.
Scooter-friendly floors. Smooth surfaces like concrete can provide a level floor for riders, reducing their chances of injury. We are actively installing these scooter-friendly surfaces.
As we continue to see more electric modes of transportation on the road, the need for city investment will become more and more crucial. Overall, I’m a big fan of this new wave of disruption in a sector that tends to be behind the times in this rapidly evolving world.