Editorials

As Wichita joins the scooter craze, let’s try to avoid the headaches felt elsewhere

Dockless electric scooters have arrived in Wichita.

Now it’s up to local officials to ensure that this newest transportation option, already widely popular in other urban areas, doesn’t cause some of the frustrations and safety issues seen elsewhere.

On Monday, Boston-based Zagster — the company that put the bikes in Bike Share ICT — deployed 500 rental e-scooters in Wichita. They’ll soon be followed with another 500 from Chicago company VeoRide, and an additional 150 from Florida-based Slidr.

That’s a lot of new scooters on Wichita streets.

And that means lots of first-time riders hopping on with little to no instruction on how to operate scooters, where they’re allowed, or any other rules of the road.

It also means Wichita motorists will start seeing e-scooters on streets and bike paths, and will need to adjust their driving to accommodate them.

Wichita leaders should be commended for addressing the scooter issue well before they arrived, establishing regulations aimed at avoiding some of the pitfalls other cities have experienced.

The regulations here are tighter than in many other communities — including a rule that you have to be 18 or older to rent a scooter. But at lunchtime Monday on Douglas Avenue, a couple of pre-teens already were ignoring that directive.

Helmets are encouraged but not required — a concern given a recent study that head injuries were common in e-scooter collisions.

Scooters won’t be allowed on sidewalks and will have to automatically shut down at dusk or 9 p.m., whichever comes first. And city staff can immediately impound any scooter that’s blocking traffic or otherwise creating a hazard.

Those are all good, common-sense regulations.

Now it’s essential that Wichita leaders not just make the rules, but also communicate and enforce them.

Particularly during this pilot-project period, city staff should collect and report data on any scooter-related injuries and monitor rental companies, and police should crack down on reckless scooter operators. City leaders also should be willing to pull the plug on the program if things go badly.

VeoRide’s website touts the company’s slogan: “Unlock Joy.” It’s true that the scooters can be zippy, convenient and a lot of fun, and it’s great that Wichita is offering another inexpensive, environmentally friendly way to get around.

Let’s just try to avoid the headaches felt elsewhere.

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