' Sean Magill | MTTLR

A Tale of Two-Wheeled Invaders

When I arrived in San Francisco early this summer, I marveled at the tech-forward presence of electric scooters all over the sidewalks. Much to my disappointment, the scooters were quickly banned. Residents had complained heavily about the scooters. Generally these complaints centered on the combination of scooters and the sidewalk: scooters ridden or parked on the sidewalk, zipping between hapless pedestrians or blocking their path. Poorly parked scooters can be especially problematic in that they create obstacles for people with disabilities. In San Francisco, and in other cities, such scooter companies have employed the “ask forgiveness rather than permission” business model. Here in Ann Arbor, Bird scooters appeared suddenly, apparently having taken the city by surprise. At this point, electric scooter services are active in about 65 US cities. Across the country, municipal responses have ranged from suing Bird to tacit acceptance. Ann Arbor responded with a middle-ground reaction, reminding users to operate properly and confiscating scooters left on sidewalks. Did the “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” business model work? Or did it backfire? Furthermore, should this “tech-bro” ask-forgiveness attitude be considered a normatively acceptable business model? Or should it be discouraged? If so, how? After San Francisco banned the scooters, the city allowed scooter companies to apply for permits. Two scooter app companies were granted permits and allowed to operate in the streets. The “early disruptors” were not forgiven. Perhaps it is in the company’s interest to ask permission first, or at least proceed with caution: [C]ities that saw a more gradual rollout have had a much smoother ride. “In San Francisco, you saw a lot of...