Greeson: Trying to scoot around downtown Chattanooga's bigger issue

Greeson: Trying to scoot around downtown Chattanooga's bigger issue

September 13th, 2018 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

My TFP colleague Judy Walton told us this week that scooters are coming to Chattanooga.

Scooters.

So, among the free shuttles, the CARTA buses, the bike-rental stations, if random scooters dropped around the city that are activated by smartphones and credit cards are the answer, then I have to ask, what's the question?

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Who among us can remember ever thinking — or hearing a visitor mumble aloud — as we wandered through downtown, "Man, you know what would make this visit awesome? A scooter. That's right, a scooter. My kingdom for a scooter."

Anyone.

Before we get too far down the scooter path, let's credit the Chattanooga City Council for trying to find a way to get in front of a national wave of new-fangled transportation and quick-hit business models that do not seek permission before trying to become pertinent.

Unlike previous startups such as Airbnb and Uber — companies that were quick to become established and popular without going through regulatory procedures — the scooter sensation has scooted through a lot of major cities.

The scooter craze is a pop-up way for folks to drop a product into mid-to-major-sized cities and, with very limited employment, cash checks in the short term.

Answers to the obvious and less-than-obvious questions are key here.

What about helmets?

What about sidewalks and folks who, you know, actually walk around our convenient downtown?

What about the competition with and potential sabotage of the bike rental stations and the shuttles? Or would this be the future replacement for either of those underused but city-funded boondoggles?

Again, I applaud Chattanooga transportation czar Blythe Bailey and his folks for trying to get in front of these scooters, although I would not give the same advice to everyday pedestrians.

Bailey told City Council members Tuesday that a couple of scooter companies had approached the city about its rules and regulations.

Eric Tucker, deputy chief of the Chattanooga police, said scooter drivers would face the same requirements as car drivers and bicyclists. OK, add to the questions whether the scooter folks could use the ever-expanding (and paved in gold flakes and jewel-encrusted curbs) bike lanes.

Bailey also noted that liability issues would fall into the laps of the private companies, so maybe that's where the helmet discussion should be directed.

It feels like this is coming, no matter what, doesn't it?

If that's the case, well, I wonder if this could be a potential step to link the rumored Southside complex that could include a Lookouts stadium and our traditional downtown sites.

That's not something I can answer.

But it appears clear that the biggest issue facing the folks downtown continues to be ignored or side-stepped. Moving people around downtown has never been the big issue.

Forget scooters. Focus on parking.

Parking that does not cost $10 a day. Parking that is not consumed by the folks who work in service jobs downtown. Parking that means more folks downtown (not moving folks around downtown), and we can all easily see which is more important.

Or maybe not.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343.

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