A row of electric scooters neatly lines the edge of a coffee shop parking lot in East Nashville as two young men walk past and eye the scene. A Bird employee eagerly offers them a free tutorial.
Devonta Gooden snaps on a black helmet, grips the handlebars of an electric scooter and kicks the pavement with his left foot. Then he’s off.
“It’s fast. It’s really fast. You know, you gotta be careful on ’em,” Gooden says.
The tutorial last week was Bird’s second stop on a 100-city Safe Streets tour. And given rising tensions over scooter use, spokesperson Sam Reed says visiting Nashville was a priority.
“I think the people of Nashville feel as though it’s been probably too much too fast,” he says.
Scooter companies are struggling to earn back trust after a 26-year-old rider was killed in May. Lime hosted a safety training last weekend, Lyft handed out free helmets at CMA Fest, and Bird has introduced new ways for app users to report reckless riding.
Last month, the mayor gave companies 30 days to propose new regulations or risk a total ban.
Six providers sent suggestions, and several went to bat for their devices at a heated Transportation Licensing
Commission meeting last week. But the Metro Council still plans to discuss a potential overhaul.
The mayor wants companies to take responsibility for their riders’ transgressions. Reed, on the other hand, says it’s up to users to follow the rules of the road.
“If rider behavior doesn’t improve in cities that are really sort of grappling with this, you know, it could go away,” Reed says.
Gooden doesn’t want careless riders to ruin it for everyone else. After he scoots back into the parking lot, he says renting a scooter for his trips to the grocery store would cheaper than filling up a tank of gas.
He doesn’t think a ban is the answer. But he does see the risks of the speedy two wheelers. He says he almost wiped out during his short test ride.
“Just be safe,” he says. “Don’t be horseplaying on it. It’s not a toy.”
Then a driver cruises past.
“No more scooters!” the driver yells from his car.
“He said, ‘No more scooters.’ They’re dangerous, I’m telling you! They’re fast,” Gooden says.
Samantha Max is a
Report for America corps member.