An Open Letter to Indy Scooter Lovers

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As the popular Lime and Bird electric scooters make their return to Indianapolis, most of the city is excited. In fact, in its permit application Bird cited Indianapolis as having some of the highest ridership rates they had seen since introducing the concept.

While the scooters were here, you may have noticed them sitting alone, unaccompanied, on sidewalks or tucked into doorways. For most people, this is not a big deal - you step over them, move them out of the way, maybe even try them out since they're right there. It gives you something to talk about with your friends, gets you involved in the city in a more active way, and can save you quite a bit of time on your foot-based commute. But (there's always a but), there's an often-overlooked population who can’t take such a cavalier approach: people with disabilities.

The innovative thing about the scooters is that you don’t have to return them to a set location when you’re done. You can park them wherever, and then the next person can hop on using their app. It’s really remarkably clever. Here’s the thing, though; when people leave the scooters wherever, that often means obstructing the sidewalk, blocking a wheelchair ramp or otherwise making it more dangerous for pedestrian traffic. Furthermore, if someone is riding their scooter on a sidewalk or a trail, it could cause some serious problems for other people using the walkway.

People who are blind or who have low vision may not be able to navigate around scooters. People using wheelchairs or mobility devices need enough clearance that they don’t knock a scooter over or injure themselves. Deaf people or people who are hard of hearing may not get forewarned if someone is scooting up behind them, potentially causing injury.

These aren’t fringe cases, either; a new Center for Disease Control and Prevention report says that 1 in 4 Americans has a disability (although not all disabilities will prevent someone from moving a scooter, fair enough). Still, 25 percent of our community—our friends, our neighbors, our peers, our coworkers, our family—is disabled in some way. That’s no small amount.

The Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities wants to encourage people to enjoy the scooters; have fun with them! New regulations with the scooters say you can’t ride on sidewalks or trails and you must park them leaving at least four feet of unobstructed space. This is great, but needs help to actually happen.

Please remember that every wherever is someone else’s where they need to be, and plan accordingly. Park your scooters considerately, move scooters that are in the way and be a good citizen. Everyone will benefit.

Christine Dahlberg is executive director of the Indiana Governor's Council For People With Disabilities.

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