It appears that yet another town in America has given in to the fear of unregulated electric scooters. Because of safety, or something.
In San Francisco, the ban took effect in early June, forcing rental companies to remove all of its scooters from the market immediately. The new rules now state that only companies with permits issued by the city can rent the devices.
These rules were put in place after residents complained about riders using sidewalks to ride the electric scooters. “They are dangerous,” residents said. “Could clash with pedestrians.” Additionally, the city explained, there’s the problem with people leaving scooters lying around, blocking sidewalks.
Just the week before the ban took effect, the city’s Department of Public Works impounded 503 scooters that had been reportedly parked in unauthorized locations.
Still, nobody can imagine accidents involving scooters being too serious. And according to scooter companies such as the Los Angeles-based Bird Rides, electric scooters, which cost cost $1 to unlock via an app and about $0.15 to ride per minute, serve as an affordable alternative to driving and using public transit, which can be stressful and add a considerable amount of time to the commute in big cities.
Still, as Bird Rides is now valued at $2 billion due to the popularity of the technology, electric scooters are being banned in several cities across the country.
Like San Francisco, Denver has also banned the device until companies are regulated. And in Indianapolis, another electric scooter company, Lime, agreed to comply with the city’s cease-and-desist order after the debate whether the city should regulate the technology started heating up.
Government-Backed Regulation Does Not Make Us Safer
As author Per Bylund explains, the idea of regulating sweatshops might be fully backed by good intentions, but it’s what it’s unseen that matters.
If the worker at the sweatshop has no other viable alternative, then not having the job at the sweatshop because new regulations have increased the cost to run the business, forcing employers to cut on payroll, is even worse.
Now, the worker has no means to make a living and will be forced to submit to worse conditions as a result. That is unseen.
Of course, allowing electric scooter sharing apps to continue operating isn’t the same as allowing sweatshops to continue employing thousands of poor people in remote or poverty-stricken regions of the world. But regulating the scooter business will also have an unseen consequence, such as hurting commuters who had found a cheap, convenient, and accessible way to get to work on a regular basis.
Are cities like San Francisco and Indianapolis thinking of their working poor and middle-class citizens when they force electric scooter companies out of business artificially? The answer is probably a big and loud “No.”