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Scooters: The New Scourge of Corporate Travel?

By Joe Sharkey
Scooters: The New Scourge of Corporate Travel?


Everybody in the travel business is giving you tips for travel in 2019, so let me put in my two cents, as they used to say when two cents had at least some meaning.

There’s new danger when walking in a big city. I hate to sound alarmist, but those dang electric scooters are causing consternation for pedestrians in the increasing numbers of big cities where scooters are readily available for quick rent on sidewalks.

Yes, I know that electric scooters are “green” alternatives to vehicles that run on internal combustion engines. They’re also logical next-steps to the welcome availability of bicycles for rental on urban streets. But really, electric scooters – typically used on city sidewalks – travel at roughly 15 mph. I don’t know about you, but as a pedestrian I clock in at 3-4 mpg, maybe a little faster if I’m motivated.

Simple physics applies. An object in motion (scooter A) encountering a slower-moving object (pedestrian B) equals a negative and often injurious experience for B, and maybe for A as well. Cultural science complicates the equation, when A is being driven by (nitwit) C who is scootering on the sidewalk while texting, equaling an even greater hazard for B. All those highway signs for personal injury lawyers — D (Call 800-555-HURT) — suddenly seem to apply downtown as well as on the interstate

I am an avid walker, no mechanical engine required, and the first thing I usually do when arriving at any city on a business trip is to find time to explore on foot. But the last time I was in San Francisco, one of the most robust centers for electric scooter adoption, I dodged a scooter coming at me with the velocity of a runaway golf-cart with a drunk at the wheel. The scooter environmental warrior glanced up from his iPhone to flip me the bird and shout a curse for being in what he clearly thought was his right-of-way — meaning that there was now an angry, distracted one-handed scooter driver careering along a steep San Francisco block crowded with pedestrians.

The electric scooter industry is booming. Sales in the U.S. are expected to skyrocket from about $202 million in 2016 to $796 million in 2025. Around the world, well over 100 major cities now have electric scooter ride-sharing services. Growth is especially robust in China and India.

Certainly, just as they have found reasonable accommodations for bicycles, smart cities will find a way to safely accommodate electric scooters for those who need to traverse the sidewalk at up to three times brisk walking speed — and attention to safety measures is growing as injuries increase. The website Curbed San Francisco describes the scooter hordes as “fury inducing,” and says, “Cities need to develop a multimodal lane for more than just bikes.”

So my only travel tip for 2019 is to paraphrase the admonition the shift sergeant always gave the cops on the old TV show “Hill Street Blues” at the conclusion of roll-call: “Let’s be careful out there.”

Memo Pad

Keep Calm and Carry On – That’s the word from the British government, dismissing as “categorically untrue” a recent front-page article in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times of London warning travelers: “Don’t Go On Holiday After March 29.” The article speculated that a lack of a deal on visa and other provisions of the Brexit initiative to leave the European Union would cause chaos in international air travel to and from the UK…  

Tokyo’s New Fish Market -- In October, the giant Tokyo fish market moved from the old and beloved Tsukji sprawl to a modern complex at Toyosu, easily accessible by subway. Visitors to Tokyo have long marveled at the literal bounty of the Pacific sprawling on display at the market and especially at the awesome auction early each morning (5:30-6:30 a.m.) of acres of tuna stacked up like torpedoes. The new location recognizes the tourist appeal with observation areas – behind glass. Those who want the old experience of wandering through the bountiful but frenetic market floor can make reservations for guided tours starting in January:  https://www.pia.co.jp/ssl/cgi-bin/genform/form.cgi?ptn=toyosu&fbclid=IwAR2g373pxQp9ZhgVFHBbqChDCXU39ZaCipMDiBycbc1v4KzmebyAlzVOmss

AA Upgrading LAX – Seems there is always construction at Los Angeles International Airport, and 2019 will bring more, as American Airlines digs into a $1.6 billion renovation of its facilities. Delta Air Lines is also spending nearly $2 billion to overhaul its LAX facilities.

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Joe Sharkey

Joe Sharkey’s work appears in major national and international publications. For 19 years, until 2015, he was a columnist for the New York Times — for 16 years doing the weekly “On the Road” column on business travel, and before that the weekly “Jersey” column for three years. He is currently a columnist with Business Jet Traveler magazine, and an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Arizona. A Vietnam veteran, he has written five books, four non-fiction and a novel. One of his nonfiction books, “Above Suspicion,” has been adapted as a major motion picture starring Emilia Clarke, Jack Huston, Thora Birch and Johnny Knoxville (and directed by Phillip Noyce), to be released soon. In January 2017, a new, revised edition of his book “Above Suspicion” was published in print and as an e-book by Open Road Media. Penguin Random House also released an audio book version in January. Open Road also published revised editions in e-book format of his true-crime books “Death Sentence” and “Deadly Greed.” In January 2018, the revised edition of “Death Sentence” was published in print by Open Road Media. In his newspaper career before the New York Times, he was an assistant national editor at the Wall Street Journal; the executive city editor of the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union; and a reporter and columnist with the Philadelphia Inquirer. On Sept. 29, 2006, while on assignment, he was one of seven people on a business jet who survived a mid-air collision with a 737 at 37,000 feet over the Amazon in Brazil. All 154 on the commercial airliner died. His reports on the crash appeared on the front page of the New York Times and later in the Sunday Times of London Magazine. He and his wife Nancy (who is a professor of journalism at the University of Arizona) live in Tucson — where he is also working on a new novel about the exploits of an international travel writer who hates to travel. .

better corporate travel starts here.