If you live in a major US city, you’ve more than likely encountered an electric scooter on the streets. Even if you’ve visited one of those cities, you may have seen a scooter sharing service such as Lime, Bird, Jump, Spin, Bolt or any other. The list is constantly growing with new companies launching almost monthly. Here in Los Angeles, I can step out of my apartment and find dozens of scooters available for my use. When it comes to short trips to the cafe, store, post office or whatever errand you have, these little guys make it easy and cheap to get around. You never have to get in your car, there’s no gas to pay for (they’re all electric and charged) and you never have to worry about paying for parking. The idea is genius and it begs the question– are we going through a tech-transportation revolution?
Tech And Transportation
Tech and transportation have always been closely intertwined– from the invention of the wheel, steamships, and the Model T all the way to Uber, scooters and the promise of self-driving cars. Many times, technology focuses on improving our lives in meaningful ways and getting around has always been a major focus. The wheel, steamships and the Model T revolutionized how we get from point A to point B, even changing how we build our cities. Could scooters in our urban cores do the same?
Electric Scooter Pros
First, let’s look at the benefits. Scooters are relatively cheap. Most have a dollar unlocking fee and then charge anywhere from 10- 25 cents a minute depending on location. That’s as low as $2.10 for a ten-minute ride. Since scooters can go up to 15 miles per hour, those ten minutes can get you pretty far. They’re also easy and convenient. Don’t want to wait in traffic in a car? A scooter can zip by on the bike lanes. Going somewhere with limited parking? Scooters can be parked anywhere on the sidewalks. Maybe you’re going somewhere that isn’t too far but not close enough to walk– your friend the scooter is here. And if you don’t have a car or take the bus, getting to your destination quickly is now possible. Now imagine half of all people in the city use a scooter instead of a car. Goodbye traffic congestion.
Electric Scooter Cons
Yet, the reality is that scooters aren’t as perfect as we’d like. They’re limited in range– about 20 miles per charge. They’re not as safe as taking a car since you’re riding exposed, and most people don’t wear helmets. Even with fairly affordable pricing, after about 15 minutes of riding you’d be better off paying for a quick Uber or driving yourself. What about drunk driving? The accidents we’re hearing about? Not to mention the horrendous sight we’ve all seen of scooters pushed over on the sidewalk in an ugly pile (people, stop pushing them over). These are all questions these tech companies have yet to solve. The technology is fairly young and it shows– there are still a few hurdles to jump.
Electric Scooter Solutions
That’s the conversation happening across the country. Here in LA, the city council often discusses banning scooters in certain parts of the city. Across the nation and the world, cities are in discussion about whether to ban or allow this new mode of transportation. Sure, it’s convenient but the infrastructure isn’t as quick to adapt to this change and safety remains a top concern. Even the population seems to be divided between full enjoyment and acceptance of this newcomer and those who detest the sight of these two-wheeled contraptions.
Despite the dichotomous conversations, I think we have to adjust and adapt. When I take a scooter in Los Angeles, particularly in any densely populated neighborhoods like Downtown or Hollywood, I can’t help but wonder– is this the new way to get around? I envision bike lanes full of commuters on scooters, parking lots chock full of scooters and maybe even the dream of less traffic on our streets. Sure, it’s not foolproof and even with more advancements, I’m not sure scooters will get that much safer or faster. But even if we have fewer cars on the streets in the densest of areas, that’s a win for me. We’re not reinventing the wheel here, but maybe we can change a few of the broken spokes while we wait for autonomous cars and flying shuttles.