Scooters Are Replacing Biking, Walking and Taking the Bus [scooters cause a net INCREASE in pollution]

https://obrag.org/2019/11/scooters-are-replacing-biking-walking-and-taking-the-bus/

Scooters Are Replacing Biking, Walking and Taking the Bus

By Frank Gormlie

November 12, 2019

Joshua Emerson Smith, at the San Diego Union-Tribune, earlier this month asked the question, “how green are e-scooters?” He proceeded, of course, to attempt to answer his own query. Here below is a summary of sorts of his findings.

In general, he says – as reflected in the sub-head – studies do find that dockless e-scooters are more eco-friendly than driving – but buses, biking and walking remain the greenest travel modes.

According to studies, many people are currently cruising around on e-scooters as an alternative to cleaner forms of transportation, such as biking, walking and taking the bus.”

The scooter craze may not be as green as advertised; Smith summarizes that a growing body of research contradicts what scooter companies have been touting the last couple of years – that their devices are “not only convenient but a win for the environment.” Also, some local elected leaders have been promoting scooters as environmentally friendly. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer called the devices “game changers” that can help the city realize its ambitious Climate Action Plan goals; Assemblyman Todd Gloria thought he was helping the environment by getting legislation passed that removed the helmet requirement for the scooters.

Why, just recently at a public hearing in San Diego, Lime’s director of government relations claimed to members of the City Council that scooters are what was getting people out of their cars.

Research and studies show that actually scooter rides are replacing biking and walking as travel options. Scooters are getting people off their bikes. Data from recent municipal surveys in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon show About 40 percent of scooter rides have replaced biking or walking trips. A Paris survey was worse – it found 85 percent of scooter rides replaced either walking, biking or public transit trips.

The scooter companies take user polls, and these have “found that on average about a third of scooter trips are replacing car trips, including a sizable 41 percent of the time in San Francisco. Lime said that figure is 35 percent in San Diego.”

The carbon footprint of scooters is very low, but not a net gain for the environment – given how people are now using them, according to a scientific study published in August from North Carolina State University. The first of its kind study, “measured the greenhouse-gas emissions per mile for a dockless shared e-scooter and then compared that against the the average car, bus and bicycle.”

Smith quotes Jeremiah Johnson, a researcher and co-author of the report:

It looks like an increase in environmental impacts … because about half of the scooter rides are displacing walking and riding bikes. If you are one of the riders who is displacing a car ride, you are almost certainly reducing your environmental emissions.”

Everything was taken into account for the lifecycle analysis for scooters; the emissions created

from manufacturing

from shipping

to disposal and

to the gas burned while workers drive around searching for scooters to charge and repair.

The study found, “more than 90 percent of emissions were from building the devices and shuttling them around by car.”

Making scooters last longer would go a long way toward shrinking their carbon footprint; the co-author of the study, Johnson, stated, “These are changes that are quite feasible. Extending the scooter lifetime, improving the efficiency of the collection and distribution system, those are achievable things. They don’t require new technology. They don’t require enormous changes in the system.”

Some scooter companies have been re-working their original models and have been regularly rolling out new ones. Scooter companies Bird and Lime claim their newest models on average last more than a year. The North Carolina study, however, used a lifespan of 15 months. For comparison, research shows the earlier scooters averaged “between a month to six months.”

Smith continues:

Some transportation researchers have questioned whether such tweaks to the scooter industry will lead to any significant environmental gains. While shrinking the carbon footprint of a device may improve a company’s image, that doesn’t guarantee it will lead to large cuts in greenhouse gas.

“Even if it can have lasting effects on daily travel, unless they connect to transit, the actual vehicle miles that are substituted are just miniscule,” said Dillon Fitch, a researcher who studies travel patterns and commuter behavior at UC Davis. “It’s just a drop in the bucket.”

More suggested improvements that could bring the technology to an overall bridge to greenland?

Increase personal ownership of such devices;

Get rid of the free-for-all collection systems “that employ gig-economy workers to compete with each other at the end of the day to scoop up as many devices as possible.” It creates a lot of needless driving around in vehicles. Some companies have begun “employing workers to round up scooters that need charging and maintenance. This costs more but allows companies to more efficiently deploy their collection fleets.”

invest in devices that log more miles before being scrapped for parts;

Establish charging stations – as they have in places such as Chicago, Tampa and Washington, D.C. “We believe charging stations can make our operations more eco-friendly, in that they’ll limit the number of trips our drivers need to make to pick up and charge scooters,” said company spokeswoman Maria Buczkowski. “Eventually these stations will be retrofitted with solar panels.”

Still, there is a promise the technology can improve enough to potentially overturn our reliance on vehicles with emissions and change the urban mode of travel.

September 21, 2021. Tags: , , , , . Environmentalism.

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