Image source: Lime
History of Electric Scooters
If you take the iconic image of a Vespa motor scooter driving in front of the Eiffel Tower with a baguette in tow and combine it with the 2000s children’s fad of the Razor kick scooter, you arrive at the latest craze in transportation, the electric scooter.
Electric scooters started making waves in early 2018 when they began popping up all over sidewalks in the United States. Here’s what happened:
Bird launched its first flock of electric scooters in Santa Monica in late 2017, and in February 2018 two bike sharing companies, Spin and Lime revealed their entrance into the electric scooter market.
The electric scooter wars were in full force in 2018. Within a year of Bird’s electric scooter launch, they had a presence in 100+ cities and campuses around the world and had reached 10 million rides. Spin was acquired by Ford within five months of deciding to go all-in on electric scooters. Lime is now located in 90+ U.S. cities and campuses and has a strong international presence. In addition, Lime and Uber have partnered to show Lime scooter availability within the Uber app.
Initial public reviews of the electric scooter were mixed. Pedestrians and motorists were suddenly bombarded with adults trying to learn how to ride an electric scooter (sometimes for the first time) while navigating traffic laws and road hazards. Many riders weren’t sober. Scooter drivers weren’t entirely sure where they were allowed to ride. Some cities and citizens pushed back and rallied for the ban of electric scooters. Cities didn’t have a plan or rules of the road in place for this type of transportation, which resulted in the removal of scooters until they did. Some battles still rage, but we’re not going to get into the politics of it.
About Electric Scooters
We’re most interested in the experience the electric scooter. How do they work? How far do they go? Where can we drive them? Here’s what we know:
Dockless and with built-in GPS, these scooters are ideal for getting from point A to point B when the weather is pleasant, your start and finish points are less than 20 miles apart, and you are comfortable riding a scooter. For larger cities, this transportation method is perfect for those who have given up their car, are inner-city residents, hang out downtown on nights and weekends, or want to leave less of a carbon footprint.
New to Electric Scooters?
Here are the items you need to know before jumping on one of these scooters.
Each company has different steps, but the following are general tips to start your ride:
- You must be 18+ years old with a valid driver’s license, regulations vary by state
- Download the Bird/Spin/Lime App to your phone and open the maps
- Google Maps has also recently launched a pilot program that shows if a Lime scooter, bike, or e-bike is available, how long it will take to walk to the equipment, the estimated cost of your ride, and your total trip time and estimated arrival time. Cool, right?
- Locate a scooter near you and unlock it by scanning the QR code with the app
- Enter your payment information and any other necessary information
- Lime: generally $1 to unlock, 15 cents per minute, but varies by city
- Bird: $1 to unlock, plus $0.15 per minute, but rates can vary
- Spin: $1 to unlock, $0.15-0.25 cents per minute, depending on where you’re headed
- Follow all traffic laws, using caution at crosswalks, intersections, and stop signs and stop lights
- Keep both hands on the handlebars
- No texting and riding
- No headphones – you need to be aware of your surroundings
- No drinking and driving
- Use universal hand signals to alert everyone with what you intend to do
- Stay alert
- Wear a helmet (The Bird app offers a free helmet, you just have to pay for shipping.)
Where to Ride:
- Follow all traffic laws, using caution at intersections and stop signs and stop lights
- Do not ride on sidewalks, unless required by law
- Ride in bike lanes as close to the curb as possible
- Ride with the flow of traffic
- Don’t block sidewalks, driveways, emergency lanes, or fire hydrants
- On hard, level surfaces where the scooter won’t tip over
- Close to the curb facing the street
- Put the kickstand down so scooter stays upright
- Some companies require you to take a photo of the parked scooter
When you scan the QR code for the scooter, it will tell you the remaining battery life.
A team of paid individuals (“Bird Chargers,” “Spin Chargers,” and “Lime Juicers”) collect dead scooters, charge them, and then put them back out on the streets when they’re fully charged.
In downtown Indy, we currently have both Bird and Lime scooters available. Some of our team rides them regularly, and here’s what they have to say:
“They’re fun to ride and are a cheap alternative to rideshare programs. I use them downtown to quickly get to dinner, basketball games, and concerts that are just out of walking range.” – Sammi, PR Specialist
“Living downtown, scooters are a fast and convenient way for me to get to social or work engagements and avoid parking issues.” – Jon, Director of Growth
“Scooters are so much fun to ride and faster than you might think. If you’re new to scooter riding, be sure to practice accelerating and stopping before you start your trip. Stopping can sometimes be tricky when there are unexpected obstacles like people, animals, or red lights!” – Chloe, Senior Buyer and Merchandise Analyst
Whether you’re a fan of the electric scooters or not, you have to admit they’re an interesting phenomenon and alternative to ridesharing or driving your car a ridiculously short distance. We’re excited to see what the future holds and if this mode of transportation will become a staple for larger cities, or if it will end up fizzling out.