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What Can We Learn from the E-Scooter Craze?

Anne-Marie Hays

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Electric scooters have sped across urban areas all over the country, as well as abroad this year. Behind this growing trend are scooter-sharing companies like Lime, Scoot, and Bird, which offer users a network of dockless electric Razor-like scooters to use at their convenience. You can locate and pay for your scooter ride, all easily within a mobile app. While examining this fad, we found a few key takeaways.

Urban Mobility Is an Open, Endless Problem for Solving and Re-Solving

Getting around within urban areas has been an irksome issue for centuries. From the first public bus line in the 1660s to ride-hailing, car sharing, and Elon Musk’s Boring Company, urban mobility is constantly seeking to find ways to transport people as fast and efficiently as possible. Population booms and environmental movements make this a fluid market with perpetual room for growth. This re-inventing the wheel mentality is good for everyone, especially the start-up companies looking to capitalize on the reinvention.

We Don’t Like to Work for It

Although the urban mobility equation has lead to many profitable and well-liked programs in recent years, not every idea has been as successful as ride-sharing 2.0. Bike sharing programs failed to catch on the way that e-scooters did for several reasons. Most prominent among these has to do with exertion. Imagine a bike sharing program in hilly Seattle or San Francisco. In the end, wouldn’t all of the bikes be at the bottom of the hill? E-scooters one-up bikes by using the electric motor to propel you up hard-to-climb hills. Even in regular flat areas, they still take much less exertion. If you are using these options to get around town, for work or pleasure, take into account the state you will be in when you get to your meeting or your meal.

“Shoot First” Doesn’t Always Work

Because e-scooters are dockless and need no permanent, physical, on-street infrastructure, some scooter companies have been deploying their scooters into cities without warning, going for a “shoot first, ask questions second” business approach. This has happened in cities like San Francisco, Fresno, Nashville, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, among others.

These companies are forgetting one thing: we love to regulate things. A bevy of city-approved and permitted pilot programs have now begun in cities like San Francisco and Nashville. These regulated programs have included some scooter companies while excluding others.

When it comes to the biggest city in the country, the Big Apple won’t be adopting scooters in the near future. It is unlikely that scooter companies will just release their product onto the streets, for fear of being left out of a future pre-regulated program, as several companies were in San Francisco. It is still illegal to operate an electric scooter in New York, the biggest potential scooter-sharing market.  

People Love a Gig: Juicers and Hunters and Rangers, Oh My

Have you been wondering who is charging these electric scooters? As the scooters themselves are dockless, they are left on sidewalks in public areas for the next rider to locate via the app and use. How do they get charged? Scooter companies pay users to round up scooters and charge them overnight. This is meant as a way to make extra cash, rather than a full-time job. Even so, it has even gotten pretty competitive in some cities.

The best part of the charging gig may just be the job title — for example, Lime “juicers,” Bird “hunters,” and Skip “rangers.”

We Don’t Like to Be Told to Wear a Helmet

Scooter companies encourage users to wear a helmet. Bird even offers free helmets if you pay for shipping. Chances are, you will not likely see a user wearing a helmet. In recent months, California Governor Jerry Brown even signed a new law that allows adults to ride an e-scooter without wearing a helmet. This goes into effect on January 1st.

We Like to Think We Are Helping the Environment

Most of the people riding e-scooters are those who would either be walking or taking public transit. These people are not trading out a ride in their gas guzzler for a jolt down the road on an easy access kick scooter.

Although we think of this as a sustainable transportation model, it is not — yet. You are using electricity which wouldn’t be used otherwise to charge the scooter.

What Goes Around Comes Around

Do e-scooters remind you of something? The Segway, perhaps? Will electric scooters go the way of the Segway?

The jury is still out on this one. Segways, the futuristic transportation trend of the early 2000s and Arrested Development magicians, were super expensive. With the much lower price point of e-scooters, scooter companies are making things easier by offering a rentable experience. You don’t have to own a scooter; you just rent it for a short period of time. Someone else even charges it for you.

Like the Segway and hoverboard before them, e-scooters are labeled as the next transportation trend. Even the ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft are in the game. We just have to wait and see whether this trend will be around in ten years. Perhaps it’s the car-sharing model that we have been looking for to solve the urban mobility question.

Anne-Marie Hays is an avid reader, television watcher, and sushi admirer. She loves learning and writing about subjects that interest her. Today, her favorites are personal finance, the retail industry, the sharing economy, and home security. She writes for BestCompany.com.

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