Streets, Not Scooters, Are the Problem

The media coverage of a tragic crash in Cleveland shows how long of a leash drivers and street design get in the debate about traffic safety and the public realm.
August 22, 2018, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"In downtown Cleveland Saturday night, a driver high on heroin struck and killed Jenasia Summers, 21, as she rode an electric scooter. But instead of questioning why Cleveland streets are so dangerous, the local press has responded by painting scooters as a safety hazard," writes Angie Schmitt.

Schmitt is criticizing the reporting and social media messaging of Cleveland.com, which, despite reporting in a separate article that the driver of the vehicle was on heroin, also tweeted a question about whether scooters are a cause for concern. An article earlier in the month describes the scooters as "incredibly dangerous," so there's a theme emerging in the publication's approach to electric scooters.

Schmitt is having none of it:

Scooters have been in the local headlines because the city recently told the start-up Bird to remove a fleet of 100 vehicles from public streets. Summers was not riding a Bird — she had rented an Icon scooter from a shop downtown. But whatever vehicle she was riding, it’s less relevant to this crash than Cleveland’s failure to make streets safer for walking, biking, or scooting.

The message echoes the tone of a previous article by Schmitt, which suggests that scooters are far more popular, and boring, than local media suggests. In that article, Schmitt also provides a level of nuance that's been rare in the discussion of electric scooters in that article: "Much of the scary news coverage has no doubt been motivated by fear of change — and, indeed, traveling by e-scooter in cities is a novel idea. In addition, the industry has been dominated by big tech firms who dump their products into public space first and ask for permission second (or not at all)." 

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Published on Monday, August 20, 2018 in Streetsblog USA
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