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Don’t Fear the Scooter

The introduction of electric ride-sharing scooters in cities around the world has been met with a surprising level of scorn, given their obvious environmental and economic benefits. Rather than banning the new technology, municipal governments should be doing everything they can to maximize its benefits.

TEL AVIV – Electric bicycles and scooters are taking a lot of heat. Concerns about traffic fatalities, terrorized pedestrians, and urban lawlessness have led a growing chorus of politicians and media commentators to conclude that the technology should be banned outright. But these critics are missing the point. Small, portable, electric transportation options are a tremendous opportunity to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, avoid traffic jams, and relieve human frustration.

A scooter that averages ten miles (16 kilometers) per day produces 3,500 grams less carbon dioxide than a car traveling the same distance. If 10,000 people were to switch from cars to scooters, their combined CO2 emissions would decline by 35 metric tons per day; if five million people did so, they would produce a mere 370 metric tons per day, or just 2% of that generated by the equivalent number of cars. The problem, of course, is that transportation managers, and the politicians who set their budgets, have not yet made the policy and infrastructure adjustments to accommodate such a transportation revolution.

For lessons on maximizing the benefits of this technology without compromising public safety, they can look to Tel Aviv, which is now home to more than 5,000 rental electric scooters. To help the city’s transportation and police departments formulate the best policies for managing them, my graduate students and I have delved into the usage data.

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