Lime has been hard at work developing a new sidewalk riding detection program that can be pushed to its existing electric scooter fleet. That program is now being tested as a way to curb the nuisance (and danger) of electric scooters riding on pedestrian-filled sidewalks.
Lime is just one of the many electric scooter-sharing companies out there that provide free-floating electric scooters in cities.
The scooters can be rented inexpensively by the minute and are popular methods of last-mile transit.
But two issues have stymied the larger positive public image of these scooters: injuries and sidewalk riding. And the two are often linked.
While many companies are taking steps to reduce scooter injuries, Lime is the first to roll out sidewalk detection.
Between data from the scooter’s speed and accelerometer sensors, as well as what Lime refers to as a “sophisticated statistical model,” the company claims it can determine whether the scooter is being ridden on the sidewalk with around 95% accuracy.
I’m no statistician, but I imagine that if the scooter bounces predictably every four feet, then it’s probably hitting sidewalk cracks.
However they are doing it, Lime is now operating its sidewalk detection pilot program in San Jose.
The Lime app will alert riders when they travel on sidewalks for more than 50% of a trip.
And Lime will also be sharing that data with the City of San Jose.
For now, that data is being shared as part of an effort to improve infrastructure and determine where bike and scooter lanes may need to be implemented. So don’t expect the police to come knocking on your dorm-room door to cite you for sidewalk riding.
At least not yet.
I think this is actually pretty cool, for a couple of reasons.
First of all, it’s true that scooters shouldn’t be riding on the sidewalks. They’re sidewalks, not siderides. Pedestrians use sidewalks because cars kicked them off of streets in the early part of the last century. If we let scooters kick them off sidewalks, then nowhere will be safe for them.
But it’s also true that many people ride scooters on the sidewalk because that is where they feel safest. If the choice is a nice, relaxing sidewalk or the side of a busy two-lane road with cars doing 40 mph around you, a sidewalk is a very tempting option for the self-preservation part of a scooter rider’s brain. That’s just evolution, folks.
If this data can show cities where scooter riders feel unsafe, and thus where bike lanes need to be added or improved, then that could improve cities for everyone.
But to be honest, I wouldn’t be opposed to a big-brother situation regarding sidewalk riding, where scooters monitor and punish riders who break the rules. If someone repeatedly rides an electric scooter in an unsafe manner, why shouldn’t they be penalized, either legally or by being kicked off the platform? Maybe that’s an unpopular opinion, but I don’t care. Anything that can improve safety for both riders and pedestrians is a win in my book.
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