Human sized vehicles — “you don’t need to put out an S.U.V.’s worth of carbon emissions just to go to work”.
The NYTimes has published a story today about e-scooters in NYC, a micro-mobility option that’s booming in cities all over the US. What is the point of the article?
There’s a continuing problem with journalism like this, implying that any form of personal transportation other than cars is a serious safety concern. The article enumerates 20 e-mobility fatalities in New York City without any context – how many were caused by drivers – and does not mention the record breaking number of traffic fatalities in 2021, a “crisis” of 124 deaths in NYC so far this year.
Asbury Park has seen a surge in e-scooter use since the LINK scooter launch in April, 2021. We hear complaints from non-users that they’re dangerous because people are breaking the rules (true), because streets are dangerous (true), or that there’s too much traffic (also true). All of those same complaints can be leveled at drivers who were involved in 40 thousand traffic fatalities last year, and the number is rising. Cities will be truly safe when we are able to reduce or eliminate car dependency.
Even the caption under this photo in the article is a not-so-subtle indictment against micro-mobility, focusing on the exceptions rather than the majority of compliant micro-mobility users: “Electric unicycles are among the electric devices that are illegal. The surge in e-mobility devices has raised safety concerns.”
Let’s focus on the positive:
“Electric bikes, scooters and other devices are in many cases made for urban life because they are affordable, better for the environment, take up little, if any, street space for parking and are just fun to use, said Sarah M. Kaufman, the associate director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University.
“In cities, many people understand there is a right-size vehicle for getting around — and that’s human size — you don’t need to put out an S.U.V.’s worth of carbon emissions just to go to work,” she said.
Across the nation, cities have increasingly embraced electric bikes and scooters as a way to get more people out of cars and fill the gap in urban transportation systems for trips that are too far to walk but too close for the subway or bus, according to transportation officials and experts.”
It’s a critical time to address how bicycling and biking infrastructure impact People Of Color in Asbury Park. Everyone deserves safe access through neighborhoods, and many people in the city ride bikes and walk as their main ways of getting around. So while we need to continue to create safe ways for people to move about the city, we also need to address the fear that the correlation of bike lanes and gentrification will lead to displacement . The city is currently following the Plan for Walking and Biking, created in 2018, gradually adding bike lanes, sidewalks, and intersection bump outs, and it is critical that we engage now and listen to how this infrastructure affects People Of Color in our city, and seek to mitigate negative impacts.
While we continue to advocate for biking, and we’re putting in bicycle lanes and other infrastructure to make Asbury Park a more vibrant and livable city, we may have also played an unwitting role in the gentrification of our city. Listen to the excellent interview with Stehlin here.
Asbury Park is working on making city streets and sidewalks great public places, as well as focusing on sustainable mobility: walking, riding bicycles, scooters, and promoting other alternative mobility options, plus public transit.
Gil Penalosa, is founder of 8-80 Cities, grounded on the concept that we can create “vibrant cities with healthy communities where all people can live happier, regardless of age, gender, ability, or socio-economic or ethnic status.”
“The 8 to 80 litmus test involves imagining a public space, but especially a busy city street or intersection, and asking whether it is suitable for young and old alike.”
(Gil’s brother Enrique Penalosa, also a well-known urbanist, was re-elected mayor of Bogota Colombia in 2015 for the 2016–2019 term. While embroiled in some recent academic controversy, he has also been influential in making major improvements for people and places in that city during his 2 separate terms as mayor up to the present, and in other cities elsewhere in the world between terms.)
The 8 to 80 Problem: Designing Cities for Young and Old
How can cities create neighborhoods that work well for all generations?
“…in many aging societies, where the proportion of seniors will grow as much as four-fold over the next two decades, public space improvements alone won’t make large urban areas, especially car-dependent suburbs, more suitable to the needs of older residents. Indeed, one of the most difficult questions facing urban areas is how they will go about making themselves more age-friendly.”