In the past few weeks, many urban areas in the United States have gotten their first taste of life with scooters, thanks to Bird, Lime, and other similar businesses. Opinions vary wildly, though many have complained about the way that the scooters are used and how the businesses operate.
However, the Pentagon appears to hate the fashionable, trendy, motorized scooters with a passion. They have such animosity for the devices that they have impounded a number of them, which are not cleared for operation within the confines of the Pentagon’s campus.
Last week, in one day, Pentagon police found a whopping seven scooters left unattended, all around the property.
In response, they impounded them until the company could send an employee or contractor to fetch them. This ride-share type of transportation is both a nuisance and a security risk.
These are not the Vespa scooters that repeatedly move in and out of popularity around the United States.
They’re ‘stand-up’ motorized scooters, theoretically capped at 13-15 miles per hour, re-charged using wall outlets, and reminiscent of a slightly bulkier version of the Razor scooters that were so popular a decade ago.
These scooters have been found all over the D.C. metropolitan area in recent weeks, including office doorsteps and even the famed Lincoln Memorial.
The ‘dockless transportation’ industry, somewhat similar to older bicycle-sharing programs, has boomed, according to those who work in it.
Lime, one of the scooter companies, said that they logged 6 million rides in their first year of operation, and boasted that they are now operating in more than 70 cities.
Riders who use the scooters are ‘encouraged’ to park them near a bike rack, or at least not in the middle of parks or sidewalks, when they are done.
However, Christopher Layman, a spokesperson with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, said that they had repeatedly found the scooters around the Pentagon reservation, the land on which the five-sided building resides.
Layman also said that the nuisance seemed to reach its peak on September 11, 2018, a day when the area is usually on high alert due to the terrorist attack carried out by Islamic extremists more than 17 years ago.
The PFPA spokesman said that on September 12, seven scooters belonging to Bird (one of the scooter companies) were found abandoned around the reservation.
The company was called to retrieve them, and they did so on the same day.
The Pentagon reservation includes a number of buildings, such as the Pentagon, the Pentagon Memorial, and several support buildings, as well as the largest transit stations in Northern Virginia.
In an email, Layman pointed out that the scooters were not approved on Pentagon property, and that customers of their businesses were not allowed to leave their scooters on the Pentagon Reservation, which is operated and maintained by the Department of Defense, under any circumstances.
Furthermore, the Pentagon promised that if any more Bird scooters were found abandoned on the premises, or bicycles, they would be impounded at owner’s expense.
The PFPA never made it clear whether their issue with the scooters (and with bicycles) being left behind, unattended, was due to the nuisance and hazard created by the devices, or because of security issues.
The Pentagon has enforced strict rules on its workers and visitors for years. It has bike racks, but those are meant for the workers, not for unattended and unsecured scooters.
In an email, a representative for Bird stated that the area around the Pentagon was a ‘no-ride’ zone, visible in the application. The employee also said that the rideshare company took care to collect vehicles left in off-limits areas, or wherever else they may be parked, as part of their ‘Save Our Sidewalks’ Pledge.
The Pentagon will remain off-limits to Bird, Lime, Scoot, and other competition for the foreseeable future.
One possible reason for this is that, in order for the scooter-sharing programs to work, people have to come and retrieve the scooters, often in their personal vehicles. It is unlikely that the Pentagon wants to allow such people to come on the reservation’s grounds for security reasons.
In most areas, local politicians have suggested that the scooters are everything from a nuisance (due to their tendencies to end up on the sidewalks, blocking the flow of foot traffic) to a danger (due to an increase in injuries related to scooter use).
One thing is certain: the Pentagon is ready to declare war on the scooters, and they’re not likely to yield.