It’s hard to match President Trump or L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti when it comes to topics that are almost guaranteed to provoke a largely negative reaction by our letter writers, but there’s another item making its way up (or down) the ranks: electric scooters.
The moment the first Bird scooters descended on West L.A. in 2017 and the Los Angeles Times started covering this novel form of urban transportation, readers expressed their misgivings over what they considered a dangerous sidewalk menace. Letter writers have continued voicing their objections as the scooters have proliferated throughout Los Angeles.
Scooter boosters may dismiss these complaints as the predictable ramblings of Luddites, but as someone who has read and edited countless letters on transportation in Los Angeles, I see something else at work: Angelenos are fiercely defensive of their sidewalk space, and many of them see scooters as one more intrusion. This protectiveness over walking space has been expressed in letters responding to articles on other topics, including cycling and the city of Los Angeles’ sidewalk repair backlog.
Several of the letters on The Times’ recent editorial about regulating scooters reflect this attitude.
Alan Bell of Los Angeles laments the ceding of sidewalk space:
Time was, sidewalks were pretty much just for walking, running and the occasional wheelchair. But now sidewalks are seen as fair game for street vendors, restaurant chairs, homeless tents and other non-transportation activities.
If these folks can get free space for their activities, calculate the scooter companies, why not us?
Carole Donlon of Los Angeles wishes police would enforce the law:
Scooters on the sidewalk are a menace, but the companies providing them are not solely to blame.
My blind husband has fallen over scooters left in the middle of the sidewalk twice. His guide dog has had to yank him sideways to avoid being hit by scooters speeding through pedestrians on our sidewalks.
After nearly being hit, we approached a pair of police officers walking the downtown beat and asked them if riding scooters on the sidewalk was illegal. “Technically” was their one-word response. They stated that they made no attempt to stop them because there are so many of them. The police are openly ignoring the danger to pedestrians posed by electric scooters and bicycles.
If we are going to continue allowing them here, we have to get them off our sidewalks.
Sally Anne Rosenberg of Los Angeles has a similar complaint:
Many scooter drivers use the sidewalks, and it is illegal to drive a motorized vehicle on the sidewalk.
Try walking on the sidewalk in Westwood during the school year. You will be constantly looking over your shoulder. This is a safety issue, not just a regulation issue.
Studio City resident Barry Weiss was the lone reader to defend the use of scooters:
Your solution of scooter companies educating their customers (they already do) and fining them in cases of misuse is well meaning. But I have not read an editorial on car rental companies educating their customers, especially those from other places where traffic rules and signage differ, and fining them whenever their customers park in the wrong spot.
Your characterization of scooters cluttering the streets and being strewn all over haphazardly, some not working, is a gross mischaracterization, using language of those who use the same language about homeless folks living on our sidewalks.
Finally, characterizing electric scooters as a fad is also prejudicial. How do you know this is a fad, which implies it will go away? The scooter companies and their investors have spent many millions on this fad. It’s not “New Coke.”