In recent times mention of ubiquitous traffic jams often kick-start most civic conversations, and sadly end-up at just that. Lest you missed out, the inconclusive deliberations leave a trail of repetitive accusations on urban planners and traffic regulators. Crowding of roads by paddle and e-rickshaws receive abusive treatment during such civic exchanges which curiously veer towards a discussion on upcoming models of cars to hit the roads. No wonder, the short-lived decline in the sale of cars during recent past did not reflect much on the roads!Till a handful of e-scooters whizzed past as I walked along the side-walks of Seine river in Paris, I had little clue that an emission-free car alternative to public transit has already swarmed many cities in the west. Plying for little over a year now, these battery-operated gadgets are a version of kiddie scooters back home that teens drag along on the streets to gain free ride for next few meters and so on. Hugging together, I found quite a few couples on e-scooters as they balanced their way in the next big thing on urban mobility.
One can call for these e-scooters much like the app-based cabs, easing movement in a city in a cost-effective manner without owning one. Unregulated at present, e-scooters have earned their share of urban administrator’s ire too. For congesting public areas and causing untoward accidents, e-scooters have recently been banned from sidewalks in Paris. As is with any new technological innovation, e-scooter is no different with its share of cheers and abuses. How it pulls out against such odds will determine its future?
As urban mobility stares at never-ending traffic snarls, I wonder if e-scooters will ease mobility on chaotic city roads. The crucial question is whether urban commuters are ready to balance themselves on e-scooters? Calling for additional training for a safe and balanced ride, reports indicate that one in three injured riders were hurt on their first e-scooter trip. For the next big change to happen in urban mobility, however, commuters will have to brace themselves for a personal mode of an emission-free noiseless form of transport.
I’m convinced that something as radical as an e-scooter has to happen for seamless commuting in a city. With whatever be an e-scooter’s current limitations, urban commuters deserve a better deal to avoid being part of the unsavory traffic congestion days on end. Even if one doesn’t know how to balance oneself on an e-scooter, there would always be help at hand to drive us through the traffic mess. The bike riders of Goa are at hand to emulate similar move with e-scooters to take us past traffic jams.
For a country that is far behind big changes in urban mobility, an experiment with e-scooters can help work through conventional hurdles in city transport. Unless one has resigned to the fate of being caught on a heavy traffic intersection as a matter of practice, e-scooter offers an almost bike-like last-mile point-to-point connectivity to ease movement in the city by bye-passing the clogged roads. Mark my words, be ready for a ride as e-scooters are coming anytime soon if not already there!.
(Sudhirendar Sharma is a writer on development issues based in New Delhi, India)