GUEST BLOGGER: Isa Fernandez


Isa Fernandez


Isa Fernández, MPA is a Legacy Corridor Business Alliance Program Manager at Westside Development Corporation in San Antonio, Texas, and is a freelance photographer and a peace and justice advocate." She serves on the board of directors of Take Back Your Time.

No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you - there have been an increasing number of large immovable metal objects peppering the already splintered landscape of American towns and cities. I’m talking about those annoying dockless scooters popping up everywhere like mushrooms. These devices serve the tech-savvy and younger, “fit” generations exclusively, and litter our sidewalks, reducing the beauty of our neighborhoods. They are both inaccessible and a hazard to our most vulnerable people, the disabled.

While the rationale of scooter corporations may be admirable--to reduce car traffic, congestion and pollution, one might assume that profit is the more important motive behind them, because, if protecting the environment were a true driving force, we might expect a contribution of scooter companies toward researching their environmental and human impacts, something we’ve yet to see. Tellingly, Travis Vander Zanden, founder of the Bird scooter company and former executive at Uber and Lyft has said that his company wouldn’t be happy until there are “more Birds than cars.” The goal is undeniably grandiose, but is it well thought out?

Rideshare companies too, have had their share of controversy, also born of overambitious expansion, regardless of their environmental impact, and their sometimes-notorious treatment of workers. While executives at such companies might be satisfied with their success, we should think carefully about what it means to support companies (as workers or consumers) that are able to forgo standard regulations and undercut more regulated industries. Neither should we turn a blind eye to the new dockless scooters that have littered our communities with their get-rich-quick debris.

Although scooter companies have suggestions on their websites as to how scooter riders should behave (wear helmets, etc.) and where scooters should be parked (don’t block sidewalks), there are as yet no ramifications for disobeying such advice. Dismounting and parking the scooter wherever riders choose presents a major issue for people with disabilities who must navigate the sidewalks in wheelchairs, the blind who use support canes and others who walk with limited mobility, especially since many people of all ages and backgrounds are not able to use the scooters for physical or other reasons.

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Photo: Isa Fernandez

These problems have in part fueled a backlash on social media., etc. Highlights include photos and video of scooters that have been set on fire, smeared with animal feces, outlined like dead bodies in the street, lying on their sides on the street and even thrown in the ocean. All of this is reminiscent of the failed bike share program in China, where corporate business inundated streets with rental bikes and resulted in mass graves of metal. The Scooter pilot program in Portland, Oregon was recently banned until pedestrian safety, accessibility for those with disabilities and state law compliance is reviewed more closely. For these reasons, I believe And Beauty For All should put a spotlight on this issue. The use of such means of mobility and their availability, while it may be helpful in reducing automobile traffic, noise and exhaust, must be regulated not merely to assure short-term profit, but with consideration of the beauty of our environment and the safety of our most vulnerable people.

What do you think?

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Photo: Reuters

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