OPINION: Oxford could benefit from electric scooters

Posted on Feb 5 2019 - 5:50am by Jonathan Lovelady

In every major city in this country, electric scooters are an important asset to increased mobility, increased economic growth and more equity in our society. Today, congestion, pollution and lack of access plague Oxford and the University community. Electric scooters could be a step in the right direction for a more walkable community.

According to Walk Score, which supplies scores for every community in the country regarding access by pedestrians, gives Oxford a score of 23 out of 100. For a comparison, the city of Memphis has a score of 36.8, and New York City is ranked highest with a score of 89.

Obviously, we can’t be in the top 10, given our rural character, but to bring the community together as a whole, more last-mile features could be initiated. Electric scooters are dockless and compact, and I feel they are integral to our community as Oxford becomes more urban.

Personally, I don’t hate cars, but to use them for travel to every destination is ludicrous, given Oxford’s urban sprawl. There is a bus system, but logically, it can’t go everywhere or be taken at all times — like Sundays, for example.

These gaps in access — on top of the fact that someone would rather not drive, for example, during game days for the range of sports our university offers or to various festivals and parades that the city supplies — are key.

Well, wouldn’t this take another service’s money? I disagree, given that these scooters are last-mile uses, meaning that they would get you from your doorstep to either your destination or, at least, to your “service” like a park-n-ride. Moreover, if such users wanted to get around the Square to shop more after riding down University, they could do so without hopping in their vehicle and creating unnecessary pollution and traffic that we see daily on the Square. A small tax could be instituted to fund for the bus system or other urban planning initiatives if people fear less usage to the system.

Given the sprawl Oxford faces, this would also help low-income workers, if they live within the city limits, as their mobility is limited if they don’t have reliable access to a vehicle.

It would also help these people the most as well as students who don’t have cars but need to go to work around Oxford. Especially, given the lack of adequate affordable housing for some individuals, they may have to live in parts of Oxford without adequate public transit access.

Safety is another thing that comes to mind with these systems, and in that regard, it’s just like using a bike, but motorized. Most cities don’t allow users to use them on sidewalks, which I agree with, but speed limits or use in bike lanes are also safe options.

Also, in high-demand areas, there should be a small corral or at least signs to designate a place for electric scooters.

A simple pilot of such services would help Oxford in determining the aspects of a last-mile system, and I know the benefits massively outweigh the costs. Jobs would also be supplied, as people need to charge the devices and move them into high-demand areas in town. Keep in mind: this isn’t to replace the current docked-bike system but to give additional options to users and ultimately keep the charm of the town intact while pushing us towards the Oxford of tomorrow.

Jonathan Lovelady is a senior sociology and geology major from Los Angeles.