Scooter company reps scolded by Oregon legislators over helmet law proposal

Posted by on February 20th, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Matthew Kopko with Bird Rides (L), and Jonathan Hopkins from Lime.

Senators Lew Frederick (L) and Cliff Bentz.

What was expected to be just another ho-hum hearing on one of thousands of bills working their way through Oregon’s 2019 legislative session, turned out to be anything but.

“What I’m hearing seems to be a bit counter-intuitive from a safety perspective.”
— Rep. Caddy McKeown, Co-Chair Joint Committee on Transportation

As we shared earlier today, House Bill 2671 seeks to require helmets for electric scooter riders 15 years of age or younger. Currently all e-scooter riders are required to wear a helmet. Backers of this bill — which include scooter companies, The Street Trust and Forth Mobility (an Oregon-based electric vehicle advocacy group) — say they merely want to harmonize the scooter law with the existing bicycle law which makes helmet use optional for everyone 16 years and older.

They say the existence of an all-ages helmet law leads to unequal enforcement against the very people most likely to need and appreciate scooters, and it could stymie adoption of scooters and other micromobility devices in the future.

“This bill creates consistency between green transportation modes,” said Jonathan Hopkins, a director of strategic development for Lime, during testimony in front of the Joint Committee on Transportation on February 13th, “Bikes and scooters are providing the same function, on the same number of wheels, at the same speed, and at the same places. While we always recommend users wear helmets, we also think users should be treated equally under the law when using very similar mobility tools.”

PBOT data from the recent pilot found that 90 percent of riders didn’t wear a helmet even though it’s required by Oregon law.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Hopkins was joined on a panel of scooter company reps by Jordan Bice and Matthew Kopko of Bird Rides. They came armed with data and talking points largely taken from the findings of the City of Portland’s successful e-scooter pilot program that wrapped up last year.

But state lawmakers weren’t having it. None of the half-dozen or so committee members who spoke during the hearing were impressed. Some of them even lectured the panelists with an admonishing tone the likes of which I’ve never heard in a legislative hearing before. The exchanges underscored the skepticism lawmakers have toward this new mode of transportation and toward the corporate lobbyists trying to make it more accessible.

The first one came from Senator Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario). Bentz touted his experience as a bicycle rider and said he knows people who’ve had crashes. “Had they not been wearing helmets they would have been dead,” he said, before adding, “And I mean it,” for emphasis. Bentz also expressed that if a low-income person who’s on Oregon Health Plan crashes and sustains a head injury, the bill for their care will, “Be on us.”

“So I’m asking, what are you guys, as an industry, doing to help solve this problem?” Bentz asked the panel.

Kopko, Bird’s director of public policy, began to respond. “We have to be mindful of the fatality and safety risks of automobiles as opposed to these type of vehicles,” he said; but was abruptly interrupted by Bentz, who sounded a bit annoyed:

“I want you to compare the number of scooters to the number of cars. Because you didn’t. You’re equating that we have exactly the same number of scooters on the road as we do cars. We have a gazillion more cars on the road than scooters. So don’t do that. Please don’t do that again. I suffered through it earlier [they’d met in Bentz’s office prior to the hearing] and I don’t want to do it again.”

Here’s video of the exchange:

Then Committee Co-Chair Rep. Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay) followed up on Bentz’s comments. “There’s an old adage.. ‘Whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it’s going to be bad for the pitcher,’ that’s what happens when your head hits the concrete,” she said.

Then McKeown continued:

“You say you’ve been providing helmets for people to use, which implies to me you understand the danger and the possible risk of riding these vehicles. And I applaud you for that; but I also hear you saying you’d prefer we not require it. What I’m hearing seems to be a bit counter-intuitive from a safety perspective.”

To which Kopko replied,

“We are very supportive of helmet use. What we’re talking here about is the diff between encouraging helmet use and mandating it by law. There’s a risk of disparate enforcement and how the helmet requirement would limit uptake of this new mode… We agree helmets should be used whenever possible… For us it’s about the consistency of laws across micromobility solutions.”

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Then there was a very tense exchange (in video above) between the Lime representative Jonathan Hopkins and Senator Lew Frederick (D-Portland).

Hopkins:

“There are certain communities that will have less access to helmets and therefore are more severely impacted by law enforcement efforts. Those happen to be the very same communities that are close to freeways or have lower lifespans by up to 10-15 years because of CO2 emissions. So there are areas where these tools have the potential to dramatically effect on our planet, peoples’ life spans, our health, and the health of our community. If there’s inequitable enforcement, you’re going to have communities that can afford helmets riding scooters and riding bikes more, and communities that are suffering from worse air quality and everything else, riding them less. And that actually exacerbates the very same problems they’ve been suffering from for decades.”

Frederick:

“I’m going to try to be kind about this. I appreciate you being concerned about disparate enforcement. Don’t use that as your argument. Please. I get a little tired of that… The next time someone will tell me that we’re looking at kids who are ‘at-risk’ and that’s why we’re doing this. Don’t do that. That doesn’t work. The issue we’re talking about now is safety. I live next to Lloyd Center and I saw a lot of scooters and I saw very few black folks on scooters. I saw very few older folks on scooters. The folks who were on scooters were of a particular economic class and race and particular age as well…. I’d suggest you speak to the safety issues. I would ask that you speak specifically to the safety issues and try not to act as though this is an issue where you’re trying to help the other social issues that we have in the community. You’re talking about transportation. It’s going to make you money, so let’s be clear about that. It’s not just an issue of trying to be helpful.. I’m not upset about you making money; but don’t use the other things to obscure that. Please.”

And Kopko got the last word:

“We have data that shows positive views of scooters increase as you go further down the economic ladder. The data also shows that people of color had a higher positive view than white people of scooter usage. I also want to note the affordability component here: When you can get a ride across town for one-fourth or one-fifth the price of Uber or other modes, it does have an impact for people. There are a lot of affordability and equity benefits for this solution.”

With exchanges like this it became clear the bill was in trouble and the hearing wasn’t going well for its supporters.

Another issue that came up (first from an ODOT Transportation Safety Division staffer, then from Co-Chair McKeown) was concern that the way the bill is written, people might get the wrong impression that people under 16 years old are allowed to use electric scooters even though current law prohibits them from riding one whether they wear a helmet or not.

After an hour-long discussion and with committee leaders like McKeown, Frederick, and Bentz clearly not enthused about the idea of loosening helmet regulations for scooter riders, committee Co-Vice-Chair Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) wrapped things up by saying, “There’s an immense amount of work to do on this. It’s not ready for prime-time at the moment.” That sentiment was echoed by McKeown when she said, “I have great concerns about this. What I think we’re doing is going a bit backwards here.”

There are no other hearings or work sessions current scheduled for this bill. Learn more about it here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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115 Comments
  • Avatar
    JaredO February 20, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Holy heck.

    If legislators lectured other testifiers (like ODOT or AAA or the Truckers) like this about traffic safety, it might be interesting.

    But as it is, it’s just disrespectful, abusive bullying of people testifying and reflects the car-blind thinking of legislators.

    Don’t forget – it was Sen. Bentz who pushed to increase posted traffic speeds in Eastern Oregon, leading to more traffic deaths.
    https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/oregon/articles/2018-12-03/increased-highway-speeds-in-rural-oregon-mean-more-deaths

    So when he starts lecturing people on safety, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

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      Kelly February 20, 2019 at 2:13 pm

      Neither do the e-scooter companies tbh. They are predatory companies seeking to take public space away from bikes and pedestrians and use them to drive their “greenwashing” investment scam. All you people here are so blinded by what you think “green transportation” should be that you can’t see that we’re all just being played here and the only winners are the VC folks backing uber and lift and bird or whatever.

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        Sigma February 20, 2019 at 3:25 pm

        “All you people…”

        Well, that makes you sound credible!

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        Middle of the Road Guy February 20, 2019 at 3:35 pm

        Personally, I always feel better knowing I am getting screwed when it’s Greenwashed.

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        Tom February 20, 2019 at 5:25 pm

        If you think the scooter industry is bad, wait until you hear about the automotive industry.

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        Johnny Bye Carter February 20, 2019 at 6:27 pm

        Since e-scooters have been around for at least 15 years I’d say the space already belongs to them. Just because somebody wants to rent them doesn’t make them any more evil than Biketown.

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        Alex February 21, 2019 at 8:25 am

        I don’t see them as taking space away from bikes or pedestrians. That hasn’t been my experience. I am curious to what examples you are referring to and how they do that? That precious little bit of sidewalk space they take? Sharing a bike lane?

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        Columbo February 23, 2019 at 2:31 pm

        Also, don’t forget that BikePortland takes advertiser dollars from the scooter companies. I’d hardly consider any viewpoint published here to be unbiased.

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          Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 23, 2019 at 3:40 pm

          Haha that’s hilarious. 1) can u remind me which scooter company ad you saw on here? And 2) If you think I give a shit about any advertiser’s money you don’t know me at all.

          BTW if any scooter companies read this… I’d lobe to talk to you about an ad campaign!

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    • Avatar
      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 20, 2019 at 2:24 pm

      I agree with some of what you’ve written JaredO. I thought the same thing.. If only these same legislators grilled ODOT or other interest groups as strongly. Instead they vote to increase highway speed limits, to give ODOT blank checks for wider and faster highways, and so on. And I also agree that these patronizing lectures were a bit over the top. I couldn’t help but think it had something to do with the age gap between the lawmakers and the panelists — all of which look young enough to be the children of the legislators.

      And yes, thank you for reminding us about Sen Bentz and his idea to raise rural speed limits and how (just like we said it would!) it led to more deaths.

      It’s my feeling that this anger and admonishment directed at the scooter company reps is really just a projection from lawmakers who simply don’t like the scooters and who don’t feel like the scooters will benefit them or their perceived constituents in any way.

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    rick February 20, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    amazing that Oregon has elected officials like this, and anti-development of the rent control

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    Kelly February 20, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    Ban e-scooters

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      Mav February 20, 2019 at 2:19 pm

      Nah

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    JJJ February 20, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Old white men going to old white men

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      Sigma February 20, 2019 at 3:25 pm

      Did you just call Lew Frederick an old white man?

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      Toby Keith February 20, 2019 at 4:19 pm

      Yes let’s be sure to stoke the fires of racism. Thanks.

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        Middle of the Road Guy February 21, 2019 at 9:47 am

        Intersectionalism. It always ends with an *ism.

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          9watts February 21, 2019 at 10:59 am

          False Equivalence-ism?

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    TheCowabungaDude February 20, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Gyargh. Was a Fossil representative there? Because these representatives sound like a bunch of clueless dinosaurs.

    Frederick’s comment about not seeing very many black people on scooters is ridiculous. I live in the King neighborhood and saw plenty of black people using them. This is Portland! Most people I see driving cars aren’t black. And Bentz – Bentz! “We have a gazillion more cars on the road…” No duh! And that’s why making other modes more accessible will make the roads safer.

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    bikeninja February 20, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    It doesn’t help that Hopkins and Kopko look like the villains from a cheap action flick. I can’t say I like anyone involved with this money driven dustup.

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      David Hampsten February 20, 2019 at 5:01 pm

      You’d like our Lime guy here in NC. He’s a former expert bike mechanic, a local boy, with so many body tattoos that they even show up under his dress shirts, with perfect Southern charm, and a real flair for handling elected officials. Everybody loves him, even our blatant anti-LGBQ tea-party republicans (NC is home to the infamous bathroom bill). He’s had a very good record of getting our cities to allow full scooter use and the state legislature to not get involved.

      Unfortunately, your Birdman is the same as ours, and has po’d our council as much as your legislators. But they do have nicer people on their staff.

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    encephalopath February 20, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Once people embrace the idea that the foam hat is a magic talisman, it’s nigh on impossible to have a reason, informed discussion about helmets use.

    It just won’t ever happen with those legislators in the room. The only fix to that is to put different people in the room.

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    • Avatar
      El Biciclero February 20, 2019 at 7:55 pm

      “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled.” — maybe Mark Twain

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    gneiss February 20, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    It’s frightening to think what would happen if a mandatory bicycle helmet bill came before this panel.

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      David Hampsten February 20, 2019 at 4:53 pm

      It would be as randomly enforced as your traffic laws are, with a 7-1 ratio of people of color being given tickets for biking or scootering while being black.

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    Glenn the 2nd February 20, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    Senator, and I use the term loosely, did you just try to make the argument that cars are more lethal because there are so many of them, as if one scooter and one car are comparably lethal? Don’t do that. Please don’t do that again. That doesn’t work. Like your brain.

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    Glenn the 2nd February 20, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    Special footnote for Bentz: Everybody seems to know this mythical person who “would be dead” if not for the helmet. My question is: How do you know that? And also: What’s their name?

    And I mean it! (is not something an honest person says)

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    David February 20, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    “We have a gazillion more cars on the road than scooters.” – Sen. Bentz

    To utilize the senator’s own phrasing we also have a gazillion more deaths due to cars on the road than scooters. I know Jonathan has pointed out that perhaps people in cars should be required to wear a helmet to prevent but that might be a relevant counter to this particular type of argument/bluster.

    The elephant in the room is that scooters are dangerous primarily because of cars; same with bicycles, walking, and driving. These legislators aren’t going to meaningfully address that because of the massive amount of introspection necessary to truly get at how much we have wrapped out society around the car – without regard to the health or other consequences (at least based on legislative history).

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      Racer X February 20, 2019 at 5:54 pm

      David, I normally would agree with your statement in regards to bicycling and pedestrians, “The elephant in the room is that electric foot scooters are dangerous primarily because of cars…”, but in the reports and research I have read, the early generations of scooters* seem to be involved in reported single vehicle crashes for most user injuries…so the REAL elephant in the room is that scooters would seem to be dangerous primarily to their riders primarily…due to compounding issues of: vehicle design + roadway conditions, the inverse dynamic of higher speeds with lower user experience/ operation skills, and potentially … an understudied issue of inspection/ repairs performed by “ad hoc” gig jobber crews of rechargers vs. certified and trained staff mechanics.

      *This is why the big electric foot scooter companies have been recently pressing hard for everyone to know they have a “new and better” model out…now that the “beta testing” on the first year’s customers is now over…I guess.

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      • Avatar
        encephalopath February 20, 2019 at 6:33 pm

        It’s those tiny little wheels. I just don’t trust them.

        Put a 10″ wheel on one of those things and I’d be inclined to believe it would roll over real word terrain.

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        • Avatar
          GlowBoy February 21, 2019 at 6:32 am

          I agree, larger wheels would solve many of the problems.

          The other issue is that the scooters go too darn fast: 17-18 mph on all the ones (Bird and Lime) that I’ve ridden. That’s vastly more dangerous than 12 mph, which would be a sensible limit for these things.

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      • Avatar
        Johnny Bye Carter February 20, 2019 at 6:48 pm

        Because e-scooters are fairly new to most people they aren’t very good at them yet. And they’re not mass-market enough to have had a lot of improvements in controls like bicycles have. I don’t think it’s fair to say that something new is dangerous just because people aren’t practiced at it yet. When I learned to ride a bike I also learned how to crash a bike. Did I fall on my head once? Yes. I also fell on my head while installing flooring, which doesn’t require a helmet. We shouldn’t be requiring helmets for things that aren’t inherently dangerous. It’s a slippery slope towards allowing insurance companies to deny a claim for any injury because you weren’t wearing a helmet. Slipped in the shower? Your policy says you’re only covered for incidents when you’re wearing a helmet.

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        David February 20, 2019 at 8:44 pm

        What’s interesting is that PBOT didn’t call that out in their report though it was noted that falls comprised 84% of ED trips involving scooter users. They cited road conditions as a bigger issue, particularly with sidewalk riding. There was another nugget they buried on page 22 which seems more pertinent to a safety discussion: “National research has found that the strongest variables connected to traffic fatality rates are the number of automobile vehicle miles traveled and vehicles per capita. With 34 percent of Portland scooter riders stating they replaced car trips with e-scooter trips, an increase in e-scooter use has the potential to contribute to a reduction in serious injuries and fatalities.”

        Thanks for calling this, and the scooter design/repair issues, out as I am not well versed there. We all have a lot to learn about scooters and where/how they fit into the transportation ecosystem.

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        pruss2ny February 22, 2019 at 9:54 am

        “so the REAL elephant in the room is that scooters would seem to be dangerous primarily to their riders primarily…due to compounding issues of: vehicle design + roadway conditions, the inverse dynamic of higher speeds with lower user experience/ operation skills, and potentially … an understudied issue of inspection/ repairs performed by “ad hoc” gig jobber crews of rechargers vs. certified and trained staff mechanics.”

        this.
        x100

        aside from all the fanfare from this website, other news sources have plenty of stories about surprising spikes in ER visits in areas who have tried scooter share…and not apparently due to evil cars.

        scooter share isn’t an attempt to revolutionize and green up our transportation…thats the marketing. scooter share is designed to make $$. they are cheap pieces of plastic and battery acid designed to ideally recapture their value after about 18-20 days of usage, after which its all profit…who cares if scooters get tossed into the river or a landfill after 3 months? certainly not the private equity backers.

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        • Avatar
          pruss2ny February 22, 2019 at 10:28 am

          it frustrates me that people are so (willfully) oblivious to the endgame of this business model.
          the endgame isn’t to create a fun/disruptive mode share.
          the endgame isn’t to create a profitable redundant business model.
          the endgame is to create the appearance of a profitable redundant business model that ALSO is a fun/green/disruptive mode share…AND THEN TO SELL IT.

          the end buyer is left with a business whose success is 100% reliant on:
          1. liability waivers so public can’t sue when the umpteenth person suffers an orbital fracture b/c they didn’t see a rock in the road
          2. the fact that the scooters after a very short period are economically disposable…depreciation is key…having to properly maintain these toys kills the profit.

          at least mechanical bikes have some durability to them, but even that share-model is proving to be broken in china, where its just cheaper to dump the bikes than maintain them, and majority of bikes that are littering the streets of shanghai are in poor shape.

          https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2018/03/bike-share-oversupply-in-china-huge-piles-of-abandoned-and-broken-bicycles/556268/

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty February 20, 2019 at 6:51 pm

      It’s not an elephant in the room; it’s rather obvious. We’re not starting with a blank slate and trying to decide whether to go with scooters or cars; we’re starting with a system with lots of cars and trying to decide whether and how to add scooters to the mix. Of course cars make things dangerous. They also make things work, and they are a fact of life.

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      • Avatar
        9watts February 21, 2019 at 9:02 am

        Rolls eyes.

        I’d like to think we could stretch our imagination a bit further into the plausible future.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 9:11 am

          You mean the plausible future and which everyone rides a bike?

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            9watts February 21, 2019 at 9:21 am

            Lots of plausible futures imaginable.
            Everyone riding bikes actually works, would work, will work.
            Everyone driving has never worked, will work less and less going forward.

            We are not starting with a blank slate, but our auto slate will be wiped blank soon enough.

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              Middle of the Road Guy February 21, 2019 at 9:49 am

              I can imagine unicorns also. I don’t expect to see one, though.

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    headfirst February 20, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    E Scooter companies are here for money. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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      Johnny Bye Carter February 20, 2019 at 6:32 pm

      Yes, and if we can get some better laws because of them without compromising safety then I’m all for it.

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      GlowBoy February 21, 2019 at 6:20 am

      So are bike companies, and rideshare companies, and helmet makers. Not to mention automakers, and oil companies, and body shops, and car washes, and mechanics, and car dealers, and gas stations and all they other businesses that make money off automobility and have a conflict of interest with anything that threatens its dominance. They’re all in business to make money. Your point is?

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        9watts February 21, 2019 at 9:04 am

        I’ll only speak for myself. The difference here on bikeportland is that for reasons that are not entirely clear to me many here fall over themselves to extol the world-saving dimensions of e-scooter rentals while those same people, we, don’t generally make similar claims about all those other companies.

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          Middle of the Road Guy February 21, 2019 at 10:01 am

          People tend to get married to certain ideas (personal mobility, anything anti-car) and have an inability to see anything critical about them because of their own personal investment in that belief.

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            9watts February 21, 2019 at 10:20 am

            Does that include your personal marriage to false equivalencies?

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 10:27 am

            Confirmation bias, basically.

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    Jillian Detweiler February 20, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    I attend this hearing and it was my first. Interesting to have Jonathan’s perspective that there was “an admonishing tone the likes of which I’ve never heard in a legislative hearing before.” I assumed it was typical! However, the committee did not treat me unkindly. I’m hopeful our bill on bike lanes will be received more warmly, especially if we demonstrate that it has support from Oregonians.

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    Johnny Bye Carter February 20, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    “people might get the wrong impression that people under 16 years old are allowed to use electric scooters even though current law prohibits them from riding one whether they wear a helmet or not.”

    Do we currently have this problem with e-bikes? I haven’t heard of a lot of kids getting busted for riding e-bikes, which have the same age requirement as e-scooters.

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      Todd Boulanger February 21, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      You are correct, though in reality its “the market” and right now its much easier for a youth rider to get [often illicit] access to an electric foot scooter vs an electric bike.

      On its face…This is similar in some ways to the issue of Segways potential impact when they first came out 2000s…the impact threat was there but blunted due to the cost of access…other than renting one from a storefront.

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    Johnny Bye Carter February 20, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    I never rented an e-scooter during the test. There were a few times I wanted to, but the helmet requirement made me decide against it. I took the bus instead.

    If I had to wear a helmet while biking then I wouldn’t bike to all the local businesses like I usually do. I’d be walking. Then we’d have a lot less bicyclists and a lot less visibility and a lot more safety issues.

    If you want to make alternative transportation safe without passing so many laws against driving then it has to be cheap and easy so that there are a lot of people using it and everybody driving knows to look out for those people.

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      billyjo February 21, 2019 at 7:42 am

      I was gonna drive to the store, but then I thought about it and because of the seatbelt law, and the fact that my car is required to have an airbag I chose to walk instead.

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        Wylie February 21, 2019 at 8:38 am

        OK but you don’t have to go out and buy seatbelts and airbags, then carry them around with you while you run your errands. Your little analogy falls apart with any scrutiny whatsoever.

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          SERider February 21, 2019 at 12:33 pm

          Yet thousands and thousands of Portlanders do this with their bike helmets every day.

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            El Biciclero February 22, 2019 at 12:28 pm

            …and their blinky lights, and their reflective vests, and their handlebar/helmet cameras…

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    encephalopath February 20, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    In the discussion about whether to mandate helmet use for electric scooter riders, it occurs to me that there are lots of measures we could take to make operating a motor vehicle safer, but we don’t because it would make driving less convenient.

    A roll cage would make cars safer if more difficult to get in and out of. Mandating helmets for drivers would also make driving much safer without question.

    Helmets for drivers, however, would also require wearing a HANS device to mitigate the risk of basal skull fracture in the event of a head on collision. Additionally, a HANS device would mandate dual over the shoulder seat belts. This would mean you need a certain level of physical mobility and training to get in and out of the safety gear.

    No question it would make driving much safer. Look at the accelerometer crash data in Formula 1: in excess of 45 Gs in a wreck and the driver walks away. But we don’t want to talk about those sorts of safety measures for cars because it would make driving much less convenient.

    Inconvenient safety gear requirements for those scooter riding people over there, though, sure… whatever, I’m not one of them.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty February 20, 2019 at 8:56 pm

      Also worth remembering that there are lots and lots of automotive safety measures we have taken, even at some cost. Death rates related to driving have fallen precipitously, and continue to fall, even with cell phones in the mix.

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        JaredO February 21, 2019 at 5:43 am

        They’ve leveled out. And the number of people walking killed by drivers has been on the increase nationwide.

        Cars protect their occupants better these days.

        It’s that old truth: the way to make drivers drive more safely for everyone is to put a steel spike, not an airbag, in the center of the steering wheel.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 8:43 am

          I would be willing to bet you anything at all that putting a steel spike on the steering wheel would not make driving safer overall. That is a ridiculous statement on its face and it would not withstand any level of scrutiny. I know everyone thinks it is clever, but it’s not. It’s just wrong.

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            9watts February 21, 2019 at 9:09 am

            You are not understanding, or pretending not to understand, the underlying logic, which is sound. It may be uncomfortable, or offensive, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable thought experiment that offers insight into the human condition.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 9:14 am

              Of course I understand it. I just think it’s wrong. We have decades of data about what happens to death rates as cars become safer, so the thought experiment is testable.

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                9watts February 21, 2019 at 9:19 am

                We only have data that capture what happens as we make cars ‘safer;’ we don’t have any data that capture what happens if we took a different, perhaps counterintuitive to you, approach. Nothing in your comment dissuades me from thinking the spike-in-the-steering-wheel idea helps us understand the very real, measurable, disparity in safety for those inside cars and the declining safety for those outside, but hurt by, cars.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 10:13 am

                It’s hard to believe no one has actually conducted a study on this topic; if they haven’t, then it would be a great dissertation for some budding PhD candidate. If they have, we can discuss real research rather than thought experiments.

                On one level it’s obvious — of course people will drive more safely if they are more at risk (at least at first — it’s not clear to me that people in the 1950s/1960s drove more safely despite hugely more dangerous vehicles); on another, it’s pointless, as no one is going to seriously propose making vehicles more dangerous, no matter what the benefits to other users of the street.

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                9watts February 21, 2019 at 10:25 am

                “It’s not clear to me that people in the 1950s/1960s drove more safely despite hugely more dangerous vehicles”

                I’m not sure that is a useful comparison.
                Older cars were not designed to internalize their risks as the steering wheel spike would clearly be doing; they were simply not designed with safety for the occupants in mind. Semiotically very different.

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                JaredO February 21, 2019 at 12:41 pm

                “No one is going to seriously propose making vehicles more dangerous…”

                Except all those people who are currently building big screens in vehicles, helping people text in vehicles, helping people make calls in vehicles, removing speed governors, souping up engines, setting speedometers so they go to 120+ instead of just 70 mph, etc.

                We have a long history of trading off safety for convenience. Usually it’s someone else’s safety for the driver’s convenience, but sometimes it’s also the driver’s safety.

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              Middle of the Road Guy February 21, 2019 at 10:04 am

              I find it strange you are taking the side of someone using an absurd example.

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                9watts February 21, 2019 at 10:10 am

                You are welcome to.

                It’s apparent absurdity is in direct proportion to our unwillingness to imagine ourselves separate from the reassuring semiotics of the auto.

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          Sigma February 21, 2019 at 9:34 am

          Imagine one driver (one of your parents, for example) who is obeying every law, is struck by a speeding drunk driver. Both drivers are killed by their steering wheel spike, and you’re ok with that? What the hell is wrong with you?

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            El Biciclero February 21, 2019 at 10:01 am

            It’s a thought experiment posed by an economist, Gordon Tullock. I don’t think anyone is “OK” with people being killed in the way you describe. The principle involved is sound, though. If people engage in an activity that poses risk to others, but little or no risk to themselves, they are less likely to exercise “due care”, and more likely to harm others through carelessness. If, however, activities that pose risk to others pose a similar amount of risk to the performer of the activity, safety is likely to increase for everyone. An economist might say that even if a few innocent people die by “Tullock spike”, casualties overall would drop.

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              9watts February 21, 2019 at 10:13 am

              Also goes by the name moral hazard.

              I recently tried to determine if Gordon Tullock was in fact the originator of this idea; when he actually first suggested it, but never did find an answer. I read it in a 1994 book by a British sociologist.

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                9watts February 21, 2019 at 11:23 am

                John Adams Risk

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 10:17 am

              Another way we could test this is to look at skiing accidents — are more skiers now injuring other skiers because everyone is wearing a helmet? There’s lots of data from both before and after wearing helmets became de rigeur, and skiing, unlike driving, has basically remained static (except that the slopes are more crowded).

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 10:18 am

              >>> An economist might say that even if a few innocent people die by “Tullock spike”, casualties overall would drop. <<<

              And, as usual, the economist would be wrong.

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                9watts February 21, 2019 at 10:27 am

                I’m no fan of economists, but can you support that statement?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 10:34 am

                I could, but I won’t.

                I’ll just say this — the converse is laughable “as usual, the economist would be right”.

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                9watts February 21, 2019 at 10:55 am

                Both are absurd. Why the hyperbole?

                Can’t we stick with the issue and leave economists out of the picture?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 11:20 am

                Ha… complaining about hyperboble regarding the accuracy of claims made by dismal scientists on a thread discussing putting spikes on steering wheels. That’s rich.

                In any event, I did not invite the economists to this party, and would be happy if they showed themselves out the way they came in.

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                9watts February 21, 2019 at 11:31 am

                No. The hyperbole I was flagging was yours, suggesting that the only two possibilities are that economists are all alike, easily grouped as wrong-all-the-time or right-all-the-time.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 11:34 am

                You misunderstood. I would never group them as right-all-the-time.

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                9watts February 21, 2019 at 11:36 am

                I wonder how I could have concluded anything about economists-as-a-group from your posts?

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                Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 21, 2019 at 12:10 pm

                9watts and Hello, Kitty…

                You two are dominating this thread with a back-and-forth that seems more focused on winning an argument with each other than adding anything substantive and productive to the issue at hand. Please take a second to consider how your overwhelming number of comments on a thread impacts other readers. If you two would like to be connected privately, I can make that happen. Thanks for your contributions to this site and for your consideration of my concerns. With love, Jonathan.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 1:08 pm

                I’m trying to learn when to break off these unproductive threads earlier. I’ll try harder.

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                John Lascurettes February 22, 2019 at 9:33 am

                Let’s get a Hello, Kitty and 9watts public debate sell up and sell tickets to benefit BikePortland.org’s bottom line. I’d pay for that — as long as there was beer there.

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                9watts February 22, 2019 at 9:35 am

                Which reminds me, I wonder whatever happened to wspob?

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            9watts February 21, 2019 at 10:16 am

            “What the hell is wrong with you?”

            We can all think of plenty of scenarios in which death and dismemberment occur due to auto misuse. Yours is a valid example, but so are thousands of others, including many that involve so-called vulnerable road users, who we tend to think about here on bikeportland, and who don’t right now enjoy airbags all around them.

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          Middle of the Road Guy February 21, 2019 at 10:03 am

          I’m going to start making a handlebar adapter for steel spikes. Can I sign you up for one?

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            9watts February 21, 2019 at 10:18 am

            I would really like to understand what you imagine your stream of these false equivalencies accomplish here in the comments? Is it necessary to point out that people on bikes don’t kill others every hour of the day or even at all?

            Shoes with spikes would make about as much sense!?

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            El Biciclero February 22, 2019 at 9:41 am

            All you really have to do is remove the padding from pavement and motor vehicle body panels…oh, wait…

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        GlowBoy February 21, 2019 at 6:30 am

        Death rates have not fallen precipitously. They were in a gradual decline until a few years ago, mainly thanks to massively improved technology around crash protection, crash avoidance, and tires. But rates are on the rise, and we’re again approaching 40,000 people killed by cars every year.

        Part of this is increased driving (and on a VMT basis death rates have still been dropping, though not by much), but let’s get real. It really boils down to 2 factors:
        – Electronic distractions. When we talk about distractions some people always raise the old canards around applying makeup, disciplining kids and shaving and eating in the car, but deaths due to those behaviors are infinitesimally rare compared to those caused by smartphones and in-car electronics.
        – Risk compensation. People are driving faster, more carelessly and more recklessly because their car will protect them. Not that long ago everyone knew driving was dangerous and the only way to protect yourself was with careful driving. Now the car does it for you. A few years ago my wife witnessed a very drunk driver leave a bar in Southeast Portland, getting only a few blocks before getting in a high-speed (45+ mph) t-bone crash. When I was a young driver that would have been certain death. He walked away without a scratch, and he was in a late 2000s car. Safety technology has improved quite a bit since then, even.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty February 21, 2019 at 8:51 am

          My statement was made in the context of an assertion that society was unwilling to impose safety measures on cars, but, as your post pointed out, we have applied many.

          I believe electronic devices are this generation’s drunk driving. One advantage we have is that unlike a bottle of whiskey, a device can help figure out for itself if it’s in a moving car so there may be a technological fix as well as a social fix, though I think both will be needed.

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          Middle of the Road Guy February 21, 2019 at 10:05 am

          Enforcement not a part of that?

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    Thomas Ngo February 20, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    While I have no sympathy for the profit margin of a VC-backed company (partially because they’re usually not making a profit anyway), the proliferation of scooters has gotten people out of cars and on to roads as vulnerable users. People scoot on greenways (aka, “bike boulevards”), bike lanes, and multi-use paths (even if it’s operated by PP&R). And that means more people are more aware of the need for safe, adequate infrastructure.

    Sure, there are going to be bad actors. They’re riding on sidewalks (I yelled at an older woman and her younger companion) on my street. And you have folks who park them in places where they shouldn’t, blocking people who depend on mobility devices. But that doesn’t mean we should inhibit more scooter usage on our roads. If anything, we should make it easier, and do a better job encouraging more civilized and respectful road manners for all road users.

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    Paul GOVAN February 21, 2019 at 2:35 am

    All round the planet weak legislators and politicians – most of whom themselves rarely if ever use,er, “undignified” 2-wheeled transport of any kind – are falling over themselves to perpetuate the primacy of cars – and the “ICE” Age that fuels global warming, environmental devastation and ethically bankrupt foreign policies/alliances/interventions(Mid East…Venezuela etc etc).
    And almost everywhere local media outlets all-too predictably side with every and any business and vested interest that profits from the fossil-fuelled, 4-wheeled status quo. That includes taxi drivers/operators, car insurance companies, car repair shops, gas-station operators/owners, car dealerships…
    All of the above know full well that forcing adults to wear helmets is a standard ploy to discourage people from switching to 2-wheeled transport. Self-image is important whether we like to admit it or not. Hollywood – movies, TV series, sitcoms – rarely if ever depict key or heroic characters using bicycles – much less ebikes or escooters – to impress audiences or move the plot along.
    Image and self-image. That’s why Musk described escooters as “undignified”. That’s why near-zero politicians in Washington or Brussels – or even delegates attending climate conferences – use bicycles or ebikes or escooters to get to and from their hotels, meetings, favourite restaurants or pleasure parlours…
    Paul G

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    Mike Quigley February 21, 2019 at 5:48 am

    Bentz, from Ontario, likes to bully those he opposes (personal experience), and he opposes just about everthing except public lands ranching. He supported the Bundy takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

    And, for a so-called “liberal” state, there’s a whole lot of reactionary thinking going on in its government. Even from the liberal side. More so even than “red, religious, and proud of it ” Idaho.

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    Jim Lee February 21, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Animus among the senators was palpable. I am not sure why; perhaps because lobbyists for large out-of-state corporations were seen as trying to bend our laws to reflect and enhance their interests.

    Long, long, ago a similar thing happened with the bottle bill. High powered lobbyists blew into Salem and threw their weight around, antagonizing almost every legislator they encountered. They ensured that the bottle bill passed and remains popular to this day.

    Lew Frederick has been around a while. His point was very well taken. He hears “equity-washing,” “at-risk-washing,” “people-of-color-washing,” “underserved-communities-washing” “diversity- washing” as condescending platitudes for encouraging continuing ethnic discrimination and oppression. He was polite, but he was definite.

    Good for him!

    If it is a safety issue, it is a safety issue for one and all.

    Interesting political theater, well captured, J. M.

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    Orig_JF February 21, 2019 at 10:35 am

    I find the testimony from Lime and Bird to be a little out of context. Yes, the motor assist scooters they rent are electric and cleaner than scooters using combustion engines. However, the bill applies to all “Motor assist scooters.” But the legislators seemingly against the Bill did not bring that up either…

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    Julie Hammond February 21, 2019 at 11:39 am

    I am little confused about why the scooter companies don’t just have helmets available with each scooter. Mobi, the bike share company in Vancouver, BC has helmets that attach to each bike with a cable that extends and retracts from the handlebars (helmets are required by law in Vancouver). I’m not saying that helmets should/shouldn’t be required, but it seems ridiculous to require them and ask riders to carry around their own. Doesn’t that take away from the very flexibility/spontaneity the scooters are trying to inspire? If a helmet is there, the rider can decide if they want to wear it or not.

    For what it’s worth, I see plenty of Mobi riders with helmets on, and plenty with the helmet in the front basket. I’ve never seen anyone stopped by the police for lack of helmet. If you poke around their website (https://www.mobibikes.ca/), you can see photos of how the helmets attach to the Mobi bikes

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      El Biciclero February 22, 2019 at 9:35 am

      ” Doesn’t that take away from the very flexibility/spontaneity the scooters are trying to inspire?”

      That often seems like the entire motivation for helmet laws, unfortunately.

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    DwaineDibbly February 21, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    I want an escooter with 700c wheels. Maybe I’ll build one. And I won’t wear a helmet.

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    headfirst February 21, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    9watts
    Does that include your personal marriage to false equivalencies?Recommended 2

    You must be fun at parties.
    Any ways….
    Clearly, all 4 people that do the majority of the commenting and the writer want the same thing: less cars. Okay, we agree. Now, how?
    Bikes? sure, but not evveryone wants to be in the elemnts pedaling. Scooters? again, elements and less load capacity.
    So, where are we at? Hmm we’ve got public transportation, but will that the plumber, the electrician, the landscaper, the parent with kids going to school on opposite sides of town…
    You get the point, and yes, it could be done by bike. But guess what? not everyone wants to get up at 5am to make breakfast, ride to daycare/school and then ride to work where dry clothes and more a professional atmoshphere awaits. Before doing the same in revers after work with some shopping and errands thrown in.
    I have no doubt it’s possible and there are bp staff writters that do it themselves, but not every family is able to. Okay? You’re bad asses in that way, now respect that some can’t.
    Do you think scooters can fill in some gap here? NOPE. Theyre a fad, a toy and something I wouyld not want my grandmother using to go to church in the rain.
    Here’s a thought, how about people start walking? Yeah, bikes and scooters are neat, nbut we’re in a town with Nike and Addidas and I have yet to hear of shoe or pedestrian advocacy. Is it too boring to start a blog about? Will the 4 super commenters not fill with 100s of comments debating the minutia of everyone’s ideals vs our flagrantly irresponsible bureaucracy? Kidding, of course.
    You commenters and writers keep telling drivers that they are the problem and if it wasnt for city hall you would have gotten rid of those pesky cars. But im not so sure. and I think many others arent.
    Arguing over escooters couldnt be sillier. They’re a trend that will go the way of segways and pet rock, let the city waste their money and get back to the human factors of transportation. Like, how can we get to where we need to go without ruining the earth or telling large groups of people they are the problem. Sorry for the long post, I sometimes get bp mixed up with nextdoor.
    Bottom line, get off your high horse while waiting at the red light fuming and help that parent of three with groceries walk across the street like you have a heart instead of an ideal

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      9watts February 21, 2019 at 4:49 pm

      “… let the city waste their money…”

      Their money?

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      El Biciclero February 22, 2019 at 12:56 pm

      “Arguing over escooters couldnt be sillier.”

      I don’t think the story was necessarily about escooters, per se. It was highlighting the attitudes our lawmakers have about helmet use and making non-motorized transportation more or less convenient. Coming down on the side of mandatory helmets makes non-car transpo less convenient, while not even considering the role that auto over-use plays in the safety of those who would be mandated to wear helmets.

      Pedestrians are not immune to this, either. “Be Safe! Be Seen!” A more ridiculous demand has almost never been made; how should I, as a pedestrian or other vulnerable road user, force anyone to see me if they have their eyes fixated on a phone or are staring to the left as they turn their cars to the right? Should we force pedestrians to wear helmets (many pedestrians die due to slamming their heads on the pavement…) or reflective vests (…after being hit by drivers who didn’t see them)? Who counts as a pedestrian? If I drive downtown and park my car, then get out to walk across the street, am I a pedestrian? What safety measures should I be compelled by law to take? What extra equipment or apparel should I carry with me so when I get out of my car I can be safe & seen?

      I’m also wondering how you got from an argument about how people don’t want to get up at 5am and brave the elements to ride a bike to school or work, to an argument that we should do more walking (still in the elements and slower than riding a bike), to an admonishment of drivers? Bicyclists? E-scooterers? to give the poor parent with kids and groceries (who at the beginning of your comment wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere with kids or groceries without a car) a break as they are trying to walk across the street?

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty February 22, 2019 at 2:55 pm

        >>> “Be Safe! Be Seen!” A more ridiculous demand has almost never been made <<<

        And yet it remains good advice. And yes, it also hold for drivers who are getting into or out of their cars as well.

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          El Biciclero February 22, 2019 at 5:17 pm

          It also remains impossible advice. One can no more “be seen” than one can “be well” when one is sick. We could advise people to “be bright”, or “be loud”, or even “be visible”, but none of those things will cause anyone to “be seen” by someone who isn’t looking. By giving the “advice” in this way, we put the blame on the wrong party in the event that something happens. If I get run over by an inattentive driver, which party wasn’t following the sterling advice they had been given? In such an event, no matter what I might have been wearing or flashing (heh, heh), I just wasn’t doing a good enough job of “being seen”. I should have tried harder.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty February 22, 2019 at 6:08 pm

            “Be seen!” is the headline (much like “Be safe!” on a crime prevention pamphlet). Like criminal victimhood, visibility is something we can influence but is not entirely under our power. So in a sense, you are absolutely right; a person can’t force another to see them. But that person will be safer if they make the job easier, so I stand by my position that being more visible is good advice for people on the streets at night, and disagree with your perhaps more fundamental point that reminding people what they can do to increase safety somehow absolves others of their responsibility to behave appropriately.

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              9watts February 22, 2019 at 7:32 pm

              “visibility is something we can influence but is not entirely under our power.”

              Except for El Biciclero’s example of the inattentive driver. Ellen Dittebrand was famously wearing high viz when she was run over, and she’s not alone. The father pulling his kid in a trailer on SE 60th was run into by someone despite being fully visible, illuminated, reflectorized. Kerry Kunsman, the same. And then there is the study which showed reflectorization having no affect on how visible we are to those in cars, profiled on a Monday Roundup some years back.

              This simply is a fruitless and dangerous road to go down. Responsibilizing everyone not in a car because those within can’t see out well or aren’t paying attention is fundamentally wrong, won’t end well for anyone.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 22, 2019 at 7:58 pm

                “Innocent person dies while doing everything right” happens every day. It proves nothing. Reminding people of ways they can reduce their risk does not make them responsible when something does go wrong. My insurance company sends me reminders about all kinds of stuff every month, but they’ll still pay up if I ignore their advice.

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                9watts February 22, 2019 at 8:11 pm

                Hey look… We’re back.

                “It proves nothing.”

                Actually it proves all sorts of useful things, including what El Biciclero and I have been arguing. For instance, that cars piloted by inattentive people kill, every day.

                Which brings us back to square 1: If as you say, even though innocent people do everything right, they die anyway, how about responsibilizing the guilty instead?

                You can have the last word.

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              El Biciclero February 23, 2019 at 7:38 pm

              “…disagree with your perhaps more fundamental point that reminding people what they can do to increase safety somehow absolves others of their responsibility to behave appropriately.”

              I’m hoping we don’t disagree that much. I should clarify that I, myself agree completely that reminding one person of how to prevent others from hurting them doesn’t absolve the others from being careful not to hurt. However, when the messaging (“advice”, if you will) is sent in a way that it commands people not to get run over by inattentive drivers rather than commanding drivers to pay attention, I merely imagine that some people might get things backwards. This is borne out in police statements and press releases that go into great detail about how a VRU failed to not get run over (dark clothing, no helmet, not in a marked crosswalk, didn’t have blinky lights…). Usually much less detail is reported about what the driver in such a situation may have failed to do (e.g., drive below the speed limit under adverse conditions, have a clean windshield, pay attention, use turn signals, etc.). Being drunk or flagrantly reckless are the only things that will get the driver any attention. Most reports contrast the utter careless failure of the victim with the driver’s willingness to stay at the scene and cooperate.

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    tswaddell February 21, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    I’m a cyclist and LCI. I’ve also driven an automobile around town as a ride share driver. In that role I saw up close and personal how the rental e-scooters were being ridden.

    What struck me is that a typical beginning urban cyclist, on a non-assisted bicycle usually doesn’t know how to safely share the road with motorized users. However, they’re also slow and out of shape, and that does place some limits on how they tend to get in trouble. I think there’s a certain truth to the idea that beginning urban cyclists somewhat improve their road skills as they ride more and get in better shape. Call it close calls, and seeing how other riders do it—if nothing else.

    E-scooter riders are just the opposite. They have no idea how to share the road safely in an urban environment. And they’re immediately able to weave in and out of traffic and on and off sidewalks at close to 20 mph. In additon, a lot of other people on e-scooters are doing the same thing, so there’s no positive peer interaction to help them learn any better.

    I’m very receptive to the potential economic and environmental benefits of rental e-scooter fleets. I also believe that there are significant and real rider safety concerns that need to be addressed.

    Overall, at this time, I think I’m in favor of requiring e-scooter riders to wear helmets. I think I would be more comfortable allowing adult riders to forgo helmets if we had significant separated infrastructure for cyclists and scooter riders to use.

    Todd Waddell
    Milwaukie, OR

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    mark smith February 21, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    Escooters have done more to get more people out of cars who would not normally. More than any bike share. Sorry, it’s true. Bikes take a specific skill. Escoots, anyone from 8 to 80. get on board or sound like a hater.

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    Boz February 22, 2019 at 12:18 am

    Why is Bentz, who represents Ontario (eastern) Oregon making decisions about scooter riding in Portland? wtf??

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      John Lascurettes February 22, 2019 at 12:40 pm

      Because it’s an Oregon ORS law that dictates the motorized scooters require a helmet. It has to change at the state level to be changeable in Portland.

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    SilkySlim February 22, 2019 at 10:13 am

    All things venture capital aside…

    I found their argument regarding precedent to be very strong. Aligning with the helmet laws on the books for bikes (not required, except for <16 ages) makes sense. Both bikes and scooters can be privately owned or rented, use same infrastructure, same speeds, similar risks….

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