Letters: Thoughts on e-bikes in Kent

Image of a man indoors next to an electric bicycle and an electric scooter
Michael Beck, regional general manager of Spin’s Great Lakes region. Owen MacMillan/KSU NewsLab

I think the scooters are a great idea. I think they could be very useful and a lot of fun. However, on Wednesday, April 13, when I drove by the University Inn, I was not pleased to see TWO scooters laying down in the middle of the sidewalk. This is a hazard. I have seen them just laying down in the grass beside a sidewalk.

I realize these are “tetherless,” but scooters laying on the sidewalk is unacceptable. I don’t know the answer to this problem, but the city and the company need to ensure the sidewalks are clear and safe.

Frances Hardesty, Kent

I have ridden bicycles since I was a child. Now I ride mostly for recreation/activity (health), and when possible I commute. Were the infrastructure a bit more positive and motorized vehicles a bit more tolerant of bicycles in all road lanes, I have a trailer that I can attach to one of my bikes, and would use it often for grocery trips and the like, but that’s a separate issue. I note all this though to show that I am not only a “bike-friendly” person, but support non-motorized vehicle use; in fact, I wish we’d get more support, tolerance, etc., because it is prudent if not environmentally smart.

That said, my experience with the e-bikes/scooters has been quite negative, albeit from a pedestrian standpoint. Most people ride them on the sidewalk which is sadly legal in Kent (but I’d love to be told I am wrong). Ohio revised its bicycle code last year and as one might expect, it is not crystal clear, but anyone wishing to inform themself as best as possible can find information online (e.g.: https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/section-4511.522).

My specific experience, though, and my wife has sadly had almost the very same experience, was almost being hit by someone on a scooter bombing down a sidewalk, giving no indication he (in my case) was coming up behind me, swerving right to miss me, then swerving to miss the others on the sidewalk as he went around us all. Put it this way: Had I noticed my shoe was untied and took a step to the right, I probably would have been hit, and hit hard. At the very least, people should understand that in the USA one never passes another person or vehicle on the right. And FYI, while the top speed of these vehicles may be stated as 20 mph (that’s at least five times the average walk speed), that is the top generated speed; max an e-bike/scooter out while going down Hilltop Drive and you’ve got a bullet traveling through a crowd.

Traditional bicycles are not toys. Bikes and other vehicles with electric motors are certainly not toys. There are rules for their operation, and people can get hurt if they are not followed. I know too well how people get on a normal bike and seem to believe that traffic laws no longer apply to them. I believe I have complained to either The Portager or some other news source in the past about my cycling brethren who ignore stop signs, lights, etc., and how they jeopardize the safety and potential harmony of a bicycle-car world, but that is road use. The idea of normalizing any vehicle zipping along any and all sidewalks, the Esplanade notwithstanding, on the KSU campus/Kent is a ticking time bomb. Someone will get hurt. And while I’m no lawyer, I can think of about three targets for a lawsuit right away if such an accident occurs: the vehicle operator, the company that promotes the e-vehicles as safe, pedestrian-esque transport, and the entity that either legalized their operation on sidewalks or has allowed enforcement to turn a blind eye.

Don K. Mutcher, Kent

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