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NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

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Saturday, January 19, 2019


I am back, not so jetlagged in this direction, of course, and ready to resume my blogging.  As usual, the world has gotten along just about as well or badly during my absence.  But before I resume my commentary on the passing scene, I had planned to tell you all about an exciting and innovative new thing in Paris, yet one more evidence that Paris is better run than our American cities.  Except that it turns out this new thing is all over the United States, even here in the benighted Southland, and I am simply the last person on the face of the earth to hear about it.

I refer to electric scooters, run by LIME and BIRD and maybe some other companies.  They are lying or standing all over Paris on the streets, and with an app on your phone, you activate one, ride away, and drop it anywhere you wish, paying by the minute.  Every night, enterprising young men and women fan out across the city, locate the scooters using a geolocation signal sent out by the scooter, and pick them up to be recharged.  The scooter hunters are paid by the scooter, and apparently sometimes turf wars break out over who got to an abandoned scooter first.

LIME scooters came to Paris last June, just after Susie and I left, and are now ubiquitous.  All manner of folks ride by:  young people, mature folks dressed in the height of fashion, sometimes even couples on one scooter, though that looks a trifle dangerous.  So to the rent-and-drop-off electric cars and velib bicycles, add electric scooters as one more blow for eco-friendly transportation in the inner city.

I myself would not dream of trying one.  At eighty-five, I am delighted simply to be upright on two feet.  But there is something inexpressibly dashing about seeing people scoot by on their LIMEs or Birds.

Well, so much for my news.  I imagine all of you are fully aware of the electric scooter fad, and some of you perhaps have ridden them, even picked up some quick cash by free-lancing their retrieval at night.

Now, if someone could just tell me who R. Kelly is.


Matt S said...

I rode these scooters for the first time in Santa Monica, CA a few months ago. They're very fun and saved me from having to hail a cab on more than one occasion.

I didn't know they had them in Paris. I'm wondering if there will start to be stricter laws about storing unused scooters on the sidewalk in some cities. As far as I know, they are in a bit of a legal grey area right now. Bike companies have to buy bike racks, but scooter companies store their scooters where people walk. I imagine it wouldn't work so well in Manhattan.

David Palmeter said...

Scooters are a menace!!! On sidewalks, they zig-zag around unsuspecting pedestrians, almost knocking some of them (me) over, and actually succeeding knocking others over. In the street, they zig-zag around cars, come up on the right side of cars waiting for a light change or at a stop sign. No rules seem to apply to them. When I am President, I'm going to make America great again by outlawing scooters. Violators will be shot at sunrise. There will be no mercy!

s. wallerstein said...

Welcome back!

They don't have rentable scooters in Santiago yet, although they have bicycles in racks that you can rent with a special card all over the city.

Bicycling has massified in the last few years, and while once people on bikes tended to be
especially careful and good citizens in traffic, now they behave as the scooters do in David Palmeter's description, and a pedestrian like myself is more likely to be run over by a bicycle than by a car.

They passed a law a few months prohibiting bicycles from riding on the sidewalk except in special specified circumstances, but as far as I can see, the police don't bother to enforce the law. As a matter of fact, cell-phone snatchers often use bicycles to grab pedestrian's cell-phones and disappear into the traffic. The neo-liberal city will be a neo-liberal city no matter how people travel.

Anonymous said...

Kant's Theory of Mental Activity, I can say Wow! Thank you Sir Wolff!

Matt said...

I don't believe that there are the motorized scooters in Melbourne yet, but we do have "dockless" bikes. For bikes, there are two main varieties: the more common sort in the US is "docked" bikes - you pick them up from a stand, and must return them to a stand (to stop being charged). It doesn't have to be the same stand. (People can get credit by returning bikes to empty stands, so there is an incentive to do so.) With "dockless" bikes, they can be left anywhere. There is a sort of clamp that locks the wheel when you are done, and you don't have to put them in a specific place. That sounds good, but in practice they are then left all over - in the middle of the sidewalk, or, here, often thrown into the river, left in the middle of a park far away from other bikes, in people's back yards, etc. Even if people are paid to retrieve them, it won't be worth it to get the far-strung ones. I'm not sure what is best over-all, but have some preference for the "docked" variety, at least for bikes. There are (real) inconveniences, but they are also more predictable, and the burden is placed on the user to not throw them all over the place, including turning them into trash. That turns out to be a big problem with the dockess kind. Maybe things are different with the scooters. I just don't know. (the problems noted by David are real, though.)

Matt said...

On a different note, some people here might find something of interest in this discussion of a "socialist utopia for 2050" by (left-ish) economist John Quiggin: (That post links to a piece in the Guardian where Quiggin sets out his view, in newspaper appropriate length and detail. I like to the blog post because you can get to the full article from there, and I think some of the comments in the blog are useful.)

It's "socialism" more in the Sanders/AOC sense than in the Marx sense, but still interesting, I think.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Wolff did you go to Gilets Jaunes when you were in Paris. Any though on them?

Paris is moving forward, they will ban fossil-energy vehicles, by 2030.