Portland is a scooter town now. And we're on board.
We confess: We were skeptical. A month ago, we were calling electric scooters "the next thing you'll hate about New Portland." We had good reason for that dire prediction. Scooters had turned some California cities into two-wheeled dystopias—with people torching them, pooping on them, and throwing them in the ocean. San Francisco officials got so fed up with the clutter and irresponsible ridership that they banned scooters altogether.
But Portland city officials have handled the scooter invasion with aplomb. They wrangled deals with three scooter companies to enter this city on a four-month trial basis, capping the number of machines on the streets at 2,500.
The result? Data show people are embracing the new technology at a rapid clip—you can see ridership increasing by the day.
Maybe it seems silly to talk about toys most of us assumed we'd outgrown decades ago. It's not. If we are going to take seriously the transportation challenges of the 21st century in a city where traffic jams are Portlanders' biggest headache, that means thinking critically about the biggest disrupter on Portland's streets since Uber.
Scooters remain plenty divisive. The city's Transportation Bureau is fielding calls from irate citizens who want the gadgets off their sidewalks.
But Portland isn't shrinking, and the one thing most people agree on is that adding cars to already-clogged city streets is a problem. The question is: Can scooters be the innovation to save us? They certainly can't do it alone, but they may help change our roads for the better.
So scoot on, Portland. And please, wear a helmet.