For the past six months, as I walked my guide dog along Forbes Avenue, a main Pittsburgh thoroughfare, I heard the talk, laughter, even singing of people gliding past in the middle of the busy street. My guide, Dave, turned to watch as the people passed.
“What’s going on?” I wondered. The passersby didn’t sound enclosed. No bicycle swishing pedals, spinning wheels; certainly, no rumbling skateboards or roaring, backfiring motorcycles. Finally, I put it together—that very new technology—electric scooters. I’d read about them, the hottest recreational item in the city.
“What fun!” I thought, remembering how, before I was blind, I’d ridden people-powered scooters as a kid through my rural Pennsylvania town. How I wished now that Dave could guide me while I swooped down Forbes on one of them! But alas. Not possible. Still, how good for the environment! Yay for Pittsburgh!
But recently, I’ve discovered a big down side to the scooters, at least for me and others with disabilities. People who have ridden them Park the scooters upright in the middle of the sidewalk or toss them unceremoniously to the concrete. This creates barriers for those of us who cannot see or cannot walk.
During Thanksgiving weekend, I encountered a group of unoccupied scooters near the corner of Forbes and Wightman Avenues. My dog stopped abruptly, and I thought he was illegally sniffing. Fortunately, before scolding him, I felt the handle of a scooter a few inches from my face.
I turned right to “scoot” around and found three of them, side by side. But to go around them, I would have had to step into the whipping traffic of Wightman Avenue.
I turned left and asked Dave to move left, then forward. He stopped. A resident’s concrete wall was too close to a scooter to give us enough space.
Finally, I dropped Dave’s harness and walked ahead of him, squeezing between the wall and offending scooter. This was a risk—walking forward without my dog. A gaping hole or other hazard could have been present.
Back home, my adult children told me they’d driven past another Squirrel Hill intersection with several scooters strewn over a curb cut. No person in a wheelchair could have crossed that street.
So, no animosity necessary. Scooter riders and disabled people can occupy common places in harmony. Parking requirements could easily be arranged to accommodate both scooter enthusiasts and those of us with disabilities. Please consider calling your city council representative to address this problem.