Op-ed | E-scooters expansion and move towards permanent

scooter co-op city on ground lime
NYC DOT recently announced that it would be looking to expand the East Bronx e-scooter pilot program and also make it a permanent program.
Photo Aliya Schneider

Recently, NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez announced DOT’s desire to expand the East Bronx shared e-scooters pilot program to more communities and make it a permanent program. This announcement was made with the release of DOT’s shared e-scooter final report and claims of success in exceeding its ambitious goals around “safety, mobility, and equity.”

DOT’s safety numbers in the report (page 28) rely on reporting only from the operators and the NYPD. What is obliviously missing is reporting from hospital emergency rooms. Recently, a neighbor was hit by a shared e-scooter and had to return to the hospital the day after he was discharged from a liver transplant surgery. The e-scooter rider fled the scene, and no police report was made. Such accidents are overlooked  in DOT’s safety numbers — 152 reported e-scooter crashes in the first 12 months.

Other obvious safety concerns observed as well as mentioned in the report is sidewalk riding, underage riding, multiple riders and e-scooters blocking driveways, curb cuts and pedestrian path of travel. These concerns must be resolved before there is any expansion. This pilot program has made it less safe for pedestrians to walk. From avoiding tripping over these e-scooters to being hit by one of them is a daily challenge. It’s been more challenging for seniors and the disabled to walk on their sidewalks.

DOT proclaims more than 1 million rides were completed from more than 86,000 user accounts in the 12-month period demonstrates their success in providing an environment friendly mobility option to the East Bronx.   86,000 users  means less than 15% of the total pilot area of 599,689 residents used a shared e-scooter. I would think it is fair to say 15% does not equate to a majority consensus that the Northeast community wants or needs the e-scooters.

More than 65% of more than 500 respondents surveyed by DOT stated they would have walked if shared e-scooters were not available, 50% stated they would have used public transportation (bus and train). This confirms my major concerns that the e-scooters would make us less green and less healthy. These e-scooters have zero emissions, but their depleted batteries end up in our landfills and their chemicals can soak into our soil and water. And, e-scooters are ridden by a young demographic that should walk more since walking is beneficial to one’s health. The Bronx ranks 62 out of 62 counties in health outcomes and a campaign #not62 was started years ago to improve the overall health of Bronx residents. I guess the campaign changed to #forever62 with these e-scooters replacing walking for users. Also, the city should focus policy and resources to support critical bus and subway mass transit instead of allowing scooters to siphon riders from MTA.

Lastly, the term equity is often co-opted by perpetrators of inequalities. As mentioned above, the shared e-scooter pilot program has made our communities less safe and less healthy. What is important to note is how many of these e-scooters are placed around NYCHA developments such as the Pelham Parkway Houses and the Gun Hill Houses, which caused problems in developments that already are overburdened. Several Pelham Parkway residents told me how the e-scooters are used to commit crimes.

In DOT’s report, it is mentioned that the Bronxdale Road Diet with parking protected bike lanes was prioritized for the e-scooter pilot. Not only has the road diet made Bronxdale unsafe for all users whether on legs or wheels, but the community was not notified nor had any input on its implementation. In fact, after months of community requests, Community Board 11 finally held a public meeting this month on the road diet — months after the project was already put in place.

The commissioner is photographed at the beginning of this report riding an e-scooter on Bronxdale, a few feet away from where a Bronxdale resident was killed after following the rollout of the road diet. The driver was speeding and jumped the curb striking the resident. The night of this tragic incident, the consensus was that the road diet was confusing — there was a blind spot, and bikes lanes were not marked or colored adequately. The DOT commissioner’s letter with the e-scooter report states DOT is committed to getting stuff done. I ask DOT to commit to engaging and listening to the community impacted to get stuff done right.

Roxanne Delgado is the founder of the Friends of Pelham Parkway organization.

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