The stereotypical electric scooter rider is a tech-savvy millennial on the go, with access to a smartphone and the tolerance for risk that early adopters tend to flaunt.
How do you deliver an important message to this information-saturated cohort as they whiz by at the speed of a runner at full sprint?
In Portland, Ore., officials from the city's Bureau of Transportation decided the answer was not email alerts, emergency alerts or text notifications. Instead, they've opted for a decidedly low-tech solution, as Willamette Week first reported:
Good 'ol paper fliers and rubber bands.
Chris Warner, interim director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said the goal of the fliers — thousands of which have been attached to e-scooters all over the city this week — is to remind a growing number of riders to abide by local rules of the road, which include yielding to pedestrians and parking the vehicles with care.
"Fliers are about as old school as you can get — paper and rubber bands,” Warner said. “We're in an era of tremendous innovation in transportation, and that requires a lot of out-of-the-box thinking for private companies, the public and for cities."
"Sometimes low-tech solutions are the best ones,” he added.
Electric scooters hit the streets of Portland last month, the beginning of a 120-day pilot program that aims to monitor the impact of the new vehicles on the city. Since their debut, the city has logged more than 178,000 trips on the vehicles, as well as about 1,100 complaints from about 500 people, according to the PBOT.
City officials said the complaints are largely from people reporting riders for doing things like operating scooters without a helmet or riding on the sidewalks, both of which violate state law. Scooter companies such as Bird, Lime and Skip include safety instructions in their apps and on their scooters, but many riders choose to ignore them, according to critics and safety experts.
Portland has seen about 12 injuries since the scooters launched, according to the PBOT.
Warner said the city started its public education efforts about e-scooters from the first day of the pilot program but turned to fliers in hopes of improving public education following the wave of complaints.
In cities across the country, scooter companies such as Bird and Lime have dumped their products on public streets without alerting local officials. In Miami — as in San Francisco, Santa Monica and Austin before it — companies placed e-scooters in the streets and were able to prove that a significant demand for rentals existed before city officials had a chance to remove their vehicles. By creating a base of loyal customers and amassing valuable transportation data, scooter companies gained more leverage before coming to the table to negotiate with city officials.
In Portland, city officials closely watched the emergence of e-scooters elsewhere and then launched negotiations with scooter companies before they had a chance to descend on the city preemptively, said Dylan Rivera, a PBOT spokesman.
Rivera said Portland officials believe theirs may be the first city to require e-scooter companies to provide real-time data as a condition of city permit approval. The city has repeatedly published that data on its Twitter account and Facebook page Facebook.com/PBOTinfo, an effort that has smoothed the rollout of the sometimes controversial vehicles, officials said.
"Our e-scooter pilot program helps us introduce new technology in a way that puts public safety first,” Warner said. “We require the companies to educate the public on the laws governing e-scooter use. Our data-sharing requirements are among the most comprehensive in the nation, allowing us to monitor the industry for compliance and helping us share information about e-scooter use from week to week during the pilot program."