“A city built for cars”

An editorial from urban planning site Planetizen: “Scooting in a City Built for Cars.” )Thanks, Drew) I’m looking forward to some interesting comments on this one. I’ll start off negative by reiterating my cringing disdain for the word “Scooting,” but I’m sure many new scooterists are finding themselves in a similar situation.

7 thoughts on ““A city built for cars””

  1. There are many things wrong with this article, and they’re representative of wrongs I see regularly in the world of scooters.

    She obviously made no consideration when she bought this thing – she admits it was an “impulse buy,” and gave no forethought to the dangers of riding. She SHOULD be afraid every time she gets in her car, too – lots of people die in those. But she, like so many, have forgotten the safety warnings of their driver’s ed instructors. And like all the other cagers that are trying to kill us, feels insulated and safe in her little bubble (which causes them to drive poorly which causes problems for us!).

    In that picture, she’s wearing a useless beanie helmet and no safety gear. How concerned with safety is she? And she’s positioned so wrongly in the lane – she should be on the left side, in front of where a driver would be in a car. She also makes zero mention of safety/training courses, which would give her the tools she needs to ride defensively and competently.

    I see people like her everywhere, and I fear for them. They buy scooters to save money, which is usually misguided to begin with, or a romanticized Roman Holiday image of scootering, and then the realization of the danger sets in and the scooters sit unused. Yes, they ARE just as dangerous as motorcycles! Should make for a nice used market, though – and at least the author bought a nice machine.

    Now, considering the target market of the article, the narrow scope of it is fine, and I’m just ranting like a madman on barely-relevant issues. But it almost would’ve made a stronger article to mention the money and time spent in safety training, the ultra-attentiveness required in riding, the hundreds spent on appropriate safety gear, and so forth, to make a convincing argument to planners about what motorcycles/scooters face on the road.

  2. Ouch, my brain hurts after reading that article. Is this woman bring paid to write this stuff? It appears as if she had never ridden a motorized two-wheeled vehicle before she decided to buy one. Big mistake! Let’s face it, motor scooters aren’t for everyone. Also, although she does not indicate the engine size of her scooter, I got the impression that it might be too under-powered for urban ridng. You have to be able to keep up with city traffic to be safe. A scoot that can’t do 60 MPH is inherently dangerous. Furthermore, urban riding is challenging no matter where you live. All cities are built for cars. I live in traffic-congested, coastal south Florida and I’ll match our idiot-cagers to LA’s any day.

    Simply put, you must learn the art of two-wheeled defensive driving if you want to coexist with cars in the city. This can be taught, but most of it is gained through experience. Oh yeah. I almost forgot. It helps if you also happen to love motor scootering. Amatuers and posers such as the author of this article are better off sticking to their cages.

  3. Riding in LA is probably actually easier than in many urban areas. Yes, traffic gets heavy, but we have the advantages of good weather, ability to lane split and the fact that most major streets are flat and straight. (What we lack: left turn signals. Intersections are especially dangerous.) It’s not as if LA drivers are any worse or more negligent than those in most other places.

    I think this piece is going to echo what a lot of new owners will experience, which is unfortunate because many of them have the potential to be happy and confident scooterists. To some degree, I feel as if dealers (who are the first scooter world contact for many of these new riders) aren’t pushing rider education and gear nearly enough. No, it’s not their responsibility, but having someone become a lifelong rider rather than buying a scoot and garaging it for a few years makes good business sense.

    On the other hand, like Bryan I’m looking forward to the glut of cheap, low-mileage used scooters to come. By the time I need to replace my daily rider, I should have lots of “garage find” options.

  4. I agree with Eric as far as dealer responsibility. My conscience would rather be honest and maybe even “scare” some potential buyers away than sell anything to anyone that is willing to pay.

    I bought my first scooter 2 years ago and fortunately went to a dealer that allowed me to test drive a few even though I had no experience. I was able to get a real feel of what I was getting into and make an educated decision on what the right fit for me was. I understand insurance restrictions and the dealer not wanting people to die on a test drive, but how do people just “impulse buy” a motor vehicle that they have never used before? Who buys a car without ever driving one? Scooters and motorcycles are too often viewed as toys and that way of thinking really needs to stop.

    I REALLY enjoy driving, whether that means 2 wheels or 4, and I am able to enjoy it while keeping my eye on what other drivers are doing. Can that be taught? Maybe a law that gives individuals the right to be able to try something before they buy it would help?

  5. I think her main point was on-target, though. I wish she wouldn’t have used her fear and lack of preparation as her supporting argument, but I agree with the premise. As both a new scooterist and a land development designer, I agree that current urban planning does not take alternative transportation into account, and when it does, it leaves a gap where the most efficient motorized vehicles are.

    95% of the time we’re designing with large (and larger) vehicles in mind. The other 5% of the time we’re throwing in sidewalks, with an occasional bicycle trail.

    But urban planning is usually a response, not a directive. To stick with cars until urban planners re-design with 2-wheelers in mind will not be effective. Urban planners will re-design only when alternative transportation reaches a critical mass that I’m not sure will ever happen in this country. It’s simply too expensive to do it any other way. No politician will ever have the balls to propose a multi-million dollar scooter expressway at public expense with the justification that surely more people will ride 2-wheelers then.

  6. I don’t think her behavior or writing warrants such harsh criticism. Her experience is very common across the country and her credentials are clearly stated. As a person who sells scooters every once in a great while, I can attest that most sales people ask first, “What are your planned uses and what are the average speeds on this road?”. Not all salespeople do and not all have a good sense of what a scooter will and will not do. That’s a shame and when I’ve witnessed it, it is frustrating. That said, the people buying these are adults and carry the burden of thier buying decisions. More often it’s the buyer that is beligerently in denial about their and the scooters capabilities. As far as test rides go, that’s a tough deal. For a shop to stay in business, location is key. Room for test tracks ajoining all shops or having shops being located in areas where the local adjacent roads are appropriate for test rides is likely an unreasonable requirement in terms of the bottom line, regardless of insurance reasons. There is also a large labor component to test rides. Taking a salesperson out of the showroom to work one on one with a new rider would be expensive and frustrating for other customers on the floor looking for answers to questions. If suddenly people are willing to pay more, wait longer, and drive further into more sparsely populated areas to buy scooters then maybe the business proposition would work. But from what I’ve experienced regarding commerce, none of those things will happen any time soon.

    The US is a nation built for cars. It’s not just SUVs, traffic and speeds. We have gotten used to a lot of open land and things are much further apart than the rest of the world. I am obviously a big fan of scooters, but they are not the Swiss Army Knife of transportation. An anology to a 3″ switchblade would be more appropriate. They can fulfill 70 percent of all cutting needs as well as anything, but they don’t easily solve the problem of opening up can of beans in the woods when it’s raining and your lost.

  7. I have to agree with a lot of what you are saying Brooke.

    And just to play devil’s advocate or something, I have noticed that a lot of scooterists get real defensive when they see these sort of articles and start complaining about scooters aren’t for everyone, etc. Folks like these seem to forget that we were once new to this too and needed training and experience before we started feeling secure on our rides. And how is someone new supposed to determine if scootering is for them if they don’t buy a scooter, take the classes, and get on the road? I haven’t noticed any scooter lending programs being established.

    And there will be a lot of used scooters on the market in a year or so. But there will also be a lot of new scooterists that hopefully love riding and become very dedicated. I’ve realized that I enjoy riding with maybe 20 percent of the folks I’ve been in group rides with down here in Florida. But I am happy that so many folks are getting in to riding and making the whole thing more high visible. More people riding increases the likelihood that car drivers will know someone personally that rides two wheels and hopefully will increase their awareness.

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