Bird, Bird, Bird Is the Word! And Them Scooters Ain't Going Away!

ALPERN AT LARGE--I doubt I'm the only fan of mobility, or new transportation options, or the first/last mile to train and bus mass transit.

I also doubt I'm the only fan of obeying the law and public safety. 

As with Uber and Lyft, and Facebook, and Amazon, and Google, there's a reason or three why Bird and Lime scooters have exploded in popularity. Those reasons probably include both good PR and a need or needs that have filled by a new company.

Is the desire to get around leading to Bird and Lime, including the first/last mile to mass transit venues such as the Expo Line? Of course.

Is the intrusion of leaving these scooters all over public and private property against the law? Of course.

Is the fact that NO ONE is wearing helmets normally worn by motorcyclists, moped drivers, and even Segway drivers leading to safety threat and avoidable head injuries? Of course.

Is the excessive use of motorized scooters on sidewalks in violation of the law, and is likely to be another source of problematic and avoidable injuries and mobility problems.

Of course, of course, of course.

Maybe LA (as with Santa Monica) is smart, or maybe getting ahead of itself, by throwing a cease-and-desist to Lime and Bird.

But...haven't you heard? Bird is the Word!

And so is the fact that getting from Point A to Point B is pretty miserable in the City of the Angels, and with car driving being anything BUT associated with freedom (people really LIKE freedom, and will be drawn to it no matter how hard some of us try to suppress it), people want alternatives that make them feel free to go where they want, when they want, and in the style they want.

So maybe it was downright smart, and maybe it was downright obnoxious, and maybe it was downright illegal, for Bird and their competitors to throw down their scooters all over creation. Or perhaps a combination of all three--smart AND obnoxious AND illegal.

But it's not like Bird is failing to fulfill a vital need in our desire to achieve mobility and freedom in our congestion-filled streets.

And while it might make some of us infuriated, particularly if we feel we've lost the mobility of our sidewalks, and it might make us want to condone vandalism instead of establishing scooter parking locations, the need for Bird (as with Uber and Lyft!) is established!

And certainly the need for scooter parking lots make as much common sense as bicycle corrals and bus stops with amenities and dignity for those who use them. Ditto for parking for car commuters, by the way--people usually LIKE dignity and respect. Go figure.

But the best way to make sure that scooters stay off the sidewalks, and riders use their helmets, and obey the law is the same method as that we use to enforce the speed limit:

Which is, to no one's surprise, a public/private campaign to demand helmets (like seat belts, we need to both save lives and avoid catastrophic physical and financial damage to our society and its citizens) gets the job done, and a MASSIVE uptick in ticket-writing by police officers.

A few good reports of expensive ticket-writing, and then perhaps the Lime/Bird users will figure out that it's a lot cheaper to buy your helmet.

Plus, the helmet looks cool--maybe it'll make people wonder if you're a bad-ass Harley rider instead of just a scooter boy or girl.

But mobility and safety and freedom are good things. 

This is so easy to fix: learn the law, obey the law, enforce the law, and then demand others mind your their darned business while an individual chooses to get from Point A to Point B in the way that he/she would like to travel and commute.

And THAT'S the Word!

 (Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)