Hoboken Takes E-Scooters for a Spin, and Complaints Follow
If people could be carted around in their easy chairs from one spot to another – that too, would be a “success.” (Not even getting into a cab – pure levitation!) We predict that these scooters will absolutely increase the total body weight of Hoboken drastically. What is the problem with walking again? And yet people also pay money for gym memberships and fitness classes – but don’t want to move a muscle for practical purposes? Overall mental breakdown!
Hoboken Takes E-Scooters for a Spin, and Complaints Follow
In the first 24 hours of the launch of an electric-scooter pilot program in the city of Hoboken, N.J., the local police department received more than 1,500 complaints and comments about the scooters, its police chief said.
Since the May 20 launch, a steady stream of complaints has rolled into the Hoboken Police Department. During that time, the department has also taken nine reports on collisions with scooters into parked cars and pedestrians, the worst of which occurred 1when an 11-year-old rider struck a pedestrian, who needed stitches.
“The number of issues about e-scooters has matched all other traffic complaints for the year, and this is only in a month,” Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante said in an interview Thursday.
Hoboken, which has a population of 55,000, was the first city in New Jersey to have a pilot program after the scooters were legalized in the state in May.
Opponents of the scooters have said they disrupt the flow of traffic in Hoboken and have complained about the way some riders discard them after use. But the scooters have proved to be popular and convenient ways to get around, according to a survey released last week by Lime, one of two e-scooter providers in the city. Between May 20 and June 19, there were more than 100,000 rides on the company’s scooters in Hoboken —the highest ridership per vehicle in any of Lime’s markets around the world during this time frame, the company says.
“It’s been much more popular than I think any of us in the city could have ever imagined when we were preparing to launch,” Hoboken Director of Transportation Ryan Sharp said in an interview.
Electric scooters have been a polarizing issue in cities around the country and has even led some government officials to reconsider their use. After a rider death in Nashville in May, the mayor of that city threatened to ban scooters unless companies improve rider behavior. Though five of those companies responded with best practices for safety, education and deployment of scooters, on Friday the mayor moved to eliminate the pilot program and consider adding a limited number of operators and scooters at a later date.
A Lime spokesman said it has included safety decals on all of the scooters and worked with Hoboken Police Department to put identification tags on the scooters to better identify them for enforcement purposes. Lime can also suspend accounts that use the scooters inappropriately and has offered safety instructions to all riders, the spokesman said.
More cities are expected to legalize the scooters in the coming years. The New York state Senate and Assembly passed a bill last week allowing e-scooters throughout the state, though the law placed a nine-month moratorium on the machines, resulting in a slower rollout than most other states.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has yet to sign the bill, said on Friday that the legislation needed more review and discussion based on concerns he has heard from safety advocates.
The bill would bar e-scooters in Manhattan, where elected officials worry about safety on busy streets. It will be up to the city council and the transportation department to decide when, where and how many scooters to allow in the other boroughs. Some people have already started illegally riding the scooters in the city, where two riders were killed in 2018. A spokesman for New York City’s transportation department said the agency is monitoring the experiences other cities have had with e-scooter sharing, particularly safety and use of streets and sidewalks.
A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said it is too soon to say what scooter sharing in New York City will look like. But he emphasized that safety would be a priority and that companies must have city authorization to operate.
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who fell off a scooter during a trip to Mexico City earlier this year, said in a statement: “I still have concerns about the public safety effects of scooters on our streets but at least now we have the clarification from Albany we needed to take a real look and see if they can work safely here.”
Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco, an advocate of e-scooters, said the program in his city was intended to alleviate existing transportation issues. He acknowledged that there have been a number of issues with enforcement, which he blamed on a rushed rollout of the program.
“We need to find a way to properly enforce the scooters,” Mr. DeFusco said.
Billy Schwartz, 25 years old, rode a Lime scooter in Hoboken for the first time Thursday, though he has used the scooters before in Miami. Mr. Schwartz lives near the border of Hoboken and Jersey City and said he prefers the scooters over bike-share programs. “With this, it’s at least a little less motion and I can get where I need to be without feeling like I’m sweating, which is nice,” he said. [411 Note: “A little less motion” is a bad mindset to have, and proof that society as a whole is getting lazier. We live in the “bare minimum” generation.]
Chief Ferrante described the first day of the pilot program as chaotic. People complained about scooters being ridden on sidewalks and some going the wrong way on one-way streets.
“It was a free-for-all the first two days, it really was,” Chief Ferrante said.
The Hoboken police department has so far issued fewer than two dozen citations for scooter violations, Chief Ferrante said, as traffic-enforcement resources are often prioritized elsewhere. There was one e-scooter-related arrest on Wednesday, in which the rider was going against the flow of traffic, hit a pedestrian and attempted to flee the scene.
The pilot program is expected to last six months, at which time Hoboken will survey residents about the scooters and decide whether to continue allowing them. Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said educating residents and riders about the regulations governing e-scooters has been a challenge.
“I don’t think we’re there yet in terms of creating an atmosphere where the large majority of the community is safe and comfortable with e-scooters continuing past the pilot program.”