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Electric scooters: What's the deal?

Posted by Rachel Karitis on 5/9/18 9:30 AM

You've been reading all about the different electric scooter options hitting the streets. (Is it the future of transit? Is it a fad? Nobody knows yet!) But what's the difference between all of them, and what do you really need to know?

The companies

The major players here are Bird, Waybots, Lime, and Spin. Right now, you can only find these in select cities — Waybots, for example, is only live in DC at the moment. You'll recognize Lime and Spin from the ongoing dockless bikeshare experiment; the other two only provide scooters. But all four companies have grand plans for the Great American Scooter Takeover. 

All the companies are offering the same price — $1 to start, then $0.15 per minute thereafter. It seems cheap, but can add up quickly; a 30-minute ride that would cost $2 from Capital Bikeshare would be $5.50 on any of these scooters.

Bird Scooters

The controversy

The complaints are what you might expect from anything new in a city. People aren't particularly amenable to change, especially when it involves a type of transportation other than a traditional car. "What about the sidewalks?" people ask from their cars running red lights and obscuring the crosswalk for pedestrians. "What if these hooligans ride them all around town and leave them everywhere?" they say from their cars illegally stalled in the bike lanes.

But, of course, there are people who leave the scooters everywhere. The point is, there are always going to be people with impolite and inconvenient behavior no matter the vehicle; scooters are just a new way of doing it. There are also plenty of scooters around town that are left uncharged or generally low on battery, which isn't a great experience.

The bottom line

Are these scooters going to be your go-to for your commute every morning? Almost definitely not, at least not until there are more of them. Are they unilaterally going to change the way the average person thinks about mobility? It's hard to say. But they are representative of an important trend: the continuing presence of more options for the consumer (without having to own something).

Increased mobility options at your fingertips? Now that's something we can get behind.

Topics: Mobility, Smart Cities, Real-Time Information