Dockless electronic scooters—Silicon Valley's latest obsession and maybe yours—hit Portland last Friday. The launch today of e-scooter company Skip means 600 new machines on city streets. City officials report more than 5,000 rides in the first weekend.
And after observing initial ridership over that weekend, some observers are grumbling.
Susan West, 70, has been a volunteer with Friends of RiverPlace, a group that upkeeps the RiverPlace Esplanade, for the last five years. She says fellow volunteers and some waterfront business owners are appalled by the scooter rider behavior they've witnessed.
"Scooters have all the sudden blasted on the scene," West says, "and it looks like so much fun, wow-ee. But in one hour last weekend, I saw 12 people flying by on scooters—none were wearing helmets and one was so drunk he had to pull over into a bush."
West says on multiple occasions she's jumped in front of toddlers and elderly park-goers on the esplanade as a body shield from scooters zooming through the park.
"I yelled, 'slow down kids are here!'" West says.
She continues, "I'm concerned because there are elderly and handicapped people and children all the time down here, not knowing anything about scooters."
West says she and other volunteers from Friends of RiverPlace have logged complaints with the city, prompting Portland Bureau of Transportation to set up two signs on either side of the esplanade telling scooter-ers to use the bike route.
City rules also state that scooters cannot be used in parks.
But still, West says the rules and signs have been mostly ignored.
"I love them and I hope it works," she says, "but it only takes one little kid wobbling over to look at a duck to get creamed."
Laurie Ogen, owner of Mia's Boutique, a clothing shop on along the esplanade, put up a sandwich board sign of her own in front of her shop reading "Please walk wheels."
She says e-scooters feel like the last straw in what has been a long battle to make the waterfront pedestrian-only.
"85 percent of people ignore [signs]," she says. "People going out of my shop are unsafe, that is absolutely the case."
Ogen adds that she's seen a lot of scooter riders on their phones. "I saw a guy almost run into someone," she says. "He stopped in time and fell off. He clearly didn't know how to stop the scooter."
She'd like to see more scooter enforcement city-wide, and she foresees more scooter tension building.
"I predict a war between people who love scooters and people who hate scooters," she says.