Marek Warszawski

Wonder what destructive … uh, inventive uses Fresno will come up with for scooters

Fresnans test out Bird electric scooters

The Bird company unveiled their electric scooters on Aug. 16, 2018 in different parts of Fresno and around Fresno State as part of a university tour across the United States.
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The Bird company unveiled their electric scooters on Aug. 16, 2018 in different parts of Fresno and around Fresno State as part of a university tour across the United States.

Set them on fire. Smear them with dog poop. Fling them off buildings and overpasses. Bury them handlebars-deep in sand.

T hese are but a few examples of how a few fellow Californians have effectively dealt with the unwanted invasion of motorized electric scooters.

Can’t wait to see what the destructive … err, inventive minds of Fresno conjure up.

Because you know we will. Surely as a smoggy August afternoon.

Or maybe they’ll just disappear from our streets and sidewalks. I mean, when was the last time you saw someone pedaling a Yellow bike?

Motorized electric scooters may be the latest transportation trend, and they do look fun to ride. But unlike skateboards or inline skates, this craze is being forced upon us without our consent.

Such is the business model adopted by e-scooter companies with names like Bird, Lime and Spin. Flush with hundreds of millions in venture capital funding, they show up in unsuspecting cities, dump off a bunch of product and leave everyone to deal with the mess.

Several months ago I saw e-scooters scattered around San Francisco and knew it was only a matter of time before they’d arrive here. That time came last week when Los Angeles-based Bird made Fresno State part of its “Bird University Pop Up Tour.”

Within a matter of hours scooters picked up at so-called “nests” around Fresno State were seen zipping through downtown and Fresno City College.

Goodness knows where they went next. Probably some chop shop.

That would be just fine with me.

I don’t have anything against scooters per se. As a form of transportation they’re perfectly acceptable. Just as long as riders give room to pedestrians, stay off sidewalks and obey traffic laws.

If someone chooses to purchase one for commuting or getting around campus, great.

My issue is with these scooter companies and their unscrupulous methods. They’re the uninvited guest that enters the front door of your house, tracks mud across the carpet and settles into your sofa before asking if it’s OK to come in.

In Fresno, following its pattern in other cities, Bird dropped off some 50 scooters less than 48 hours after the company submitted an online application for a business license. The approval process typically takes about a week.

“This seems to be the new business model,” city spokesman Mark Standriff said. “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

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The Bird company unveiled its electric scooters in Fresno on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. The city has since moved to restrict the scooters, and San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach may follow suit. Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado cdelgado@fresnobee.com

It’s too soon to say whether Fresno will allow Bird to operate or if city officials will take a page from West Hollywood, Miami, Nashville, Boston and Seattle and ban their use. San Francisco impounded hundreds of them before issuing a temporary ban. Denver did likewise, then allowed some back as part of a pilot program. Portland and Salt Lake City have taken similar steps.

Standriff said a decision isn’t likely until the end of the week, but I’m guessing the scooters showing up with scant notice won’t help the cause.

“There are a significant number of questions and ‘what ifs’ that need to be answered,” he said.

Beyond the mixed reaction to scooters from various municipalities is the outright hostile reaction from citizens. A recent Los Angeles Times story listed all the ways people are expressing their distaste.

“They throw them everywhere: in the ocean, in the sand, in the trash can,” Robert Johnson Bey, a Venice Beach maintenance worker, told the paper.

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Pay-per-minute electric scooters deployed by companies such as Bird have prompted bans in some cities across the U.S., while in others critics are fighting back by burning and trashing the scooters - documented on BirdGraveyard on Instagram. Instagram

I also got a kick out of two Instagram sites, BirdGraveyard and ScootersBehavingBadly, that depict scooters being set on fire, piled into trash cans and dangling from telephone poles and street signs.

Los Angeles police have made scooter vandalism a very low priority — the Times reported just one arrest that the district attorney declined to prosecute — and I’m guessing it’ll be the same here.

Destruction of someone’s personal property is one thing. Quite another when some company, propped up by VC funds, leaves a bunch of scooters on our sidewalks without asking. They’re not close to the same.

That doesn’t mean I’ll be out there taking part in any vandalism. Nor am I encouraging or condoning it.

Just acknowledging reality. The people of Fresno won’t be outdone by our Southern California and Bay Area brethren. Scooters here will die some colorful deaths.

Marek Warszawski: 559-441-6218, @MarekTheBee

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