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    You have to wonder: What exactly was the strategy in the surprise rollout of hundreds of electric scooters here and in other U.S. cities this past spring and summer without so much as a word of warning (or a word of promotion)? Did the highly capitalized tech upstarts responsible for the “launch” — Bird, Lime, Spin — expect to be booted out so summarily (Louisville officials sent them packing within 36 hours before inviting Bird back for a cleared trial run) or were they in fact dumbfounded by such a negative reaction to what was, after all, a commercial venture involving positive aspects like affordable ($1 up front and 15 cents per mile) and environmentally friendly urban transportation?

    I’m thinking the former. Knowing that the cities they invaded weren’t prepared to regulate a fleet of mini-vehicles that — at a maximum speed of 15 mph — were too slow for the roads and too fast for the sidewalks, they barged in with their nifty throwbacks to adolescence to win over the hearts, minds and kid-fancies of trend-conscious customers before city governments could deny them access on the grounds that the scooters might pose a danger, a nuisance or a combination of the two. But I’m also thinking the latter. In pollution-wary downtowns and urban neighborhoods, how could you not welcome a genuine solution to carbon-fueled modes of getting around town?

    Who knew there would be such a big cultural backlash? Reports of e-scooters illegally zipping down sidewalks and piles of heedlessly discarded scooters blocking sidewalks and driveways led to reports of miffed citizens heaving the things into garbage cans and dumpsters. One news and opinion site, Vox, described bugged pedestrians who saw scooter riders as “the epitome of tech-bro arrogance.” Another site, TechCrunch, noted that the riders “can ooze a kind of brash entitlement. The sweatless convenience looks like it might be mostly enabling another advance in tech-fueled douche behavior as a T-shirt-wearing alpha nerd zips past, barking into AirPods and inhaling a takeaway latte.”

    Wow, given the scooters’ clean-air upside, that’s some serious social conflict. After inviting a chastised Bird back under a temporary agreement that ends this month and paid the city a $1,000 license fee plus $50 per scooter (maximum fleet: 100), Louisville — like other cities — is no doubt weighing public-safety costs versus revenue-stream benefits as it works out a longer-range deal, which may well have been completed by the time you read this.

    This originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "Boot Scoot Boogie." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Illustration by Carrie Neumayer

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