Sunday, May 13, 2007

More Transit Ideas: Scooters for Everyone!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the personal automobile is the central challenge / problem / hurdle / issue of all urban planning. Cars are essential to modern American life. They provide us with mobility, leisure, entertainment, an outlet for conspicuous consumption, freedom, and class status. They also saddle society with carbon emissions, run over pedestrians, make biking difficult (if not intolerable in places), insulate (and isolate) us from our fellow humans, encourage urban sprawl, make a lot of noise, etc.

I'm trying to think creatively these days about how to reduce our dependence on the private automobile. We cannot simply remake our entire urban (and metropolitan) systems at once. We must, instead, pursue an incremental approach. It is with this in mind that I'm thinking more about scooters (and full-size motorcycles, for that matter) as one possible solution to the problem of the car.

Scooters (mopeds, whatever) are excellent in cities that do not depend on highways for intra-city travel. They get great gas mileage (60+ mpg), cost a lot less than cars, and very importantly take up very little space. Since space is at a premium in an urban center, any device that can reduce an individual's spatial needs is great news. In the space of one parking spot (15' x 10') your can easy park a half-dozen scooters.

To be fair, there are indeed drawbacks: scooters are much more dangerous, especially at night. They require additional training to operate, and unless people buy full-size motorcycles highway travel is out of the question. Nevertheless, I think it's feasible. If you doubt that a population can, as a whole, embrace the scooter, I'll leave you with this image of scooters parked in Taiwan:

Monday: Transit Ideas
Tuesday: Scooters for Everyone!
Wednesday: Apartments Without Kitchens!
Thursday: Even More Ridiculous Transit Ideas
Friday: Urban Parks


Anonymous Ronnie Montrose said...

"Crank it on up!!!

Sometimes it takes an urban planner to construct the words, sometimes it is the wordsmithing of a poet, other times the inspired tongue of a religious leader, but the one who makes the best case for scooters is none other than the banging head of the Red Rocker Sammy Hagar...

Bad Motor Scooter

If you get lonely on your daddy's farm,
Just remember I don't live too far.
And there's a red bridge that arcs the bay, yeah!
You'll be at my place in less than a day.
So get on your bad motor scooter and ride,
Up over to my place and stay all night.
First thing in the morning we'll be feeling all right.
So get on your bad motor scooter and ride.
Ooh, the last time I seen your face,
Swore that no one would take your place.
Now since you've been gone,
I've been feelin' bad, yeah!
I'd come out to your place (but)
I'm afraid of your dad. So you...
Ride, ride, ride.
Come on baby, ooh yeah.
Crank it on up!

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lyle Lanley: Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
Like a genuine,
Bona fide,
What'd I say?
Ned Flanders: Monorail!
Lyle Lanley: What's it called?
Patty+Selma: Monorail!
Lyle Lanley: That's right! Monorail!
[crowd chants `Monorail' softly and rhythmically]
Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud...
Lyle Lanley: It glides as softly as a cloud.
Apu: Is there a chance the track could bend?
Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.
Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs?
Lyle Lanley: You'll be given cushy jobs.
Abe: Were you sent here by the devil?
Lyle Lanley: No, good sir, I'm on the level.
Wiggum: The ring came off my pudding can.
Lyle Lanley: Take my pen knife, my good man.
I swear it's Springfield's only choice...
Throw up your hands and raise your voice!
All: Monorail!
Lyle Lanley: What's it called?
All: Monorail!
Lyle Lanley: Once again...
All: Monorail!
Marge: But Main Street's still all cracked and broken...
Bart: Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken!
All: Monorail!
[big finish]
Homer: Mono... D'oh!

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Bonnie Erickson said...

The photo reminds me of the rallies at Sturgis, only those would be Harleys! One huge drawback to scooters is Minnesota winters. I don't know about you, but riding in the open on snowy roads in below zero temps would be a definite challenge! Biking would be a little easier as the lower speed lessons the wind chill impact. Chicago and NYC have great "el"/subway systems. The Twin Cities is a long way and a LOT of tax subsidy from having that kind of efficient mass transit. It's definitely a conundrum.

11:41 PM  

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