Graphic by Ashley Stewart
The start of 2018 introduced a new transportation trend known as Limes and Birds. The scooters popped up in huge numbers out of nowhere and are littered on the sidewalks of Atlanta. It’s now normal to see a couple zooming down Peachtree Street — even by the SCAD campus. These share-ride scooters only cost $1 to start, making their low cost part of the popularity.
On the surface, these scooters seem to be a good thing. But, it has become apparent they are not so well liked. So, what are these scooters and why have they not been well received?
Birds are the first type of public scooter to appear in Atlanta and were not, in fact, someone’s start-up project. According to Vice, “Founded in 2017 by Travis VanderZanden, a former executive at Lyft and Uber, the electric Bird scooters can be located and unlocked with the company app.” It is easy to see how the scooters are connected to the popular share-ride apps Lyft and Uber. There’s even a similarity in their logo designs.
So, how did these scooters from San Franciso overrun the Atlanta? According to the Atlanta Magazine, “In early May, without much of a heads up to City Hall, the Santa Monica–based company, founded by a former Lyft and Uber executive, dropped off 200 of its scooters in Midtown, Old Fourth Ward, downtown and West End.” While Uber and Lyft proved popular for public transportation, Vice spoke to Sinan, a local artist and bike messenger, who said, “They’re just counterproductive to public transit, and they’re not being used for the right reasons by the right people.”
Birds and Limes are used in incorrect and completely unsafe ways. A quick walk around Midtown will show how fast people go when riding the scooters on sidewalks — which riders are strictly forbidden from doing. Specifically for Atlanta, the scooters are not allowed on the Beltline or in Piedmont Park, according to Atlanta Curbed. Ali Taylor, a third-year fashion marketing and management student, said, “A friend of mine ended up in the Intensive Care Unit with a brain bleed due to the scooter going so fast. She hit a bump in the sidewalk and it flipped her forward — like a bicycle effect. She is still recovering.” Atlanta Magazine wrote, “Bird suggests users wear a helmet, but it’s safe to say no one does. The companies also require users to be over the age of 18, but younger teen riders aren’t deterred.” This becomes a safety hazard for riders and pedestrians alike.
Here is a photo taken just one week ago of one boy riding a Lime on the sidewalk while another boy films him. This was right in front of a crosswalk.
Photo by Marian Hill
The rules are there for a reason. The scooters have also become a safety hazard for people in wheelchairs. Atlanta Magazine stated, “Shortly after Lime appeared in Atlanta, James Curtis, a 46-year-old who has used a wheelchair for more than 20 years, was unable to bypass a scooter left on the sidewalk across the street from the Shepherd Center, where he volunteers. ‘It made me feel like a second-class citizen,’ he said.”
The idea of the dockless, electrical scooter has its appeal, but the people who ride these scooters somehow attain an attitude that justifies their rule-breaking rides. “They’re like motorized gnats, driven by yuppies that are literally too stupid to avoid hitting you on the side walk,” said Sarah Bradley, a fourth-year writing student. “Thanks to them I have to walk around my city, jumpy as hell, because I might die of yup-related injuries.”
The counterpoint to this argument comes in the form of job creation that these scooters have provided. Through the app for both Bird and Lime, you can become a paid charger. Chargers are given a certain amount of money for picking up scooters and charging them in their homes. This can turn into a decent way to earn a bit of extra cash — if not for the fact that becoming a charger can increase your likelihood of getting mugged. The Atlantic reported “One scooter charger said he has been nearly robbed on two occasions and that he now won’t retrieve scooters that are left in strange places, for instance, at the end of a dark alley.” This has led chargers to avoid certain parts of the city that are considered unsafe, leaving scooters uncharged. This adds to the congested number of unusable scooters that become obstacles for those who need the sidewalk.
From a trendy way to get around town to one of Atlanta’s newest safety hazards, these dockless electrical scooters have made a lasting impression on this Southern metropolis. Another thing to consider is that, according to Atlanta Injury Lawyer Blog, published by Robin Frazer Clark, P.C., “Liability can be hard to prove, and questions of insurance coverage for injuries can be tricky to answer; health insurance will say that car insurance should cover medical expenses, and car insurance points the finger back saying it won’t cover a crash on two-wheeled vehicles.” It’ll be good to remember that next time you consider riding a Bird or Lime.