Get our free newsletter
Gear Prudence: It seems like scooters aren’t going away and we’re probably going to get even more of them. Come springtime, the bike lanes will be flooded and it doesn’t seem like I’ll have much choice but to peacefully coexist before bike lanes are rebranded as scooter lanes. How do I learn to stop griping and come to terms that it’s a scooter world and we’re just biking in it? —Guess Everybody Traveling Around Loves Only New Gadgets
Dear GETALONG: RIP bicycles: 18??–this question. They had a good run, but their time has passed. Electric scooters are the tiny mammals and bicycles are the dinosaurs. Venture capitalism is the meteor. GP’s basement is the Museum of Natural History, where these relics of a bygone area are stored, no longer fearsome, potent, and menacing the earth. Perhaps e-bikes are some of those dinosaurs with feathers. But the regular old pedal bicycle is the sad brontosaurus, baying forlornly in an uninhabitable new world, overrun by the next new thing.
Strained metaphors aside, let’s suppose that bicyclists have a few more trips around the sun before complete extinction, and that we’re trying to be conscientious sharers of limited street space. Generally speaking, one should act around a scooterist the same way one would behave near a bicyclist. Signal passes, give ample room, be nice, etc. The distinctions between the two conveyances are fairly minimal. Whether you like it or not, bikes and scooters are far more like each other than either is like a car. And if you’re the kind of person who cares about safe streets or the planet not dying (There are dozens of us! Dozens!), you can take solace in the fact that the scooterist is choosing a way to get around the city that’s both space-efficient and resource-light.
Nevertheless, there are differences and acknowledging these can lead to better coexistence. Shared scooters in D.C. are capped at 10 mph, so don’t expect any extra oomph once the top speed is reached. If you’re inclined to go faster than that, you’ll need to pass (which almost invariably means leaving a bike lane). And with any shared vehicle, it’s best to not assume that the person operating it is intricately acquainted with its controls, such as steering and braking. (Though if you’ve been biking in D.C. for any amount of time, it’s likely you’ve long given up assuming that anyone doing anything has any idea of what they’re doing.)
Like every other novelty, after time you’ll adapt. It’s best not to be too stodgy about these things, both because stodginess wears poorly and because the next few years are poised to see all kinds of on-street “innovations.” No, it’s not fair, in a cosmic sense or otherwise, that more vehicle types are being shoved into the same limited street space (and the people in charge should do something about this), but being patient is probably better than being mad all the time. —Gear Prudence