As many of you know, having been (largely) car-free for several years, and being interested in non-petroleum-based alternatives for transportation generally, I had to check out the new electric scooters being piloted here.
My $0.02 follows:
Lime: These things are very easy to find, and seem generally sturdier. Heavier, brighter (white with green trim) and have headlights. Unfortunately, they are too slow to accelerate and decelerate, probably due to the extra weight. I almost got caught in a couple of intersections trying to cross too slowly. Works out to about a $1.17-1.20 per mile. Seems to go through battery quickly as well. My second ride was a little under 3.5 mi, mostly uphill, and I used every last drop of the 67% left when I got on it.
Bird – had my first ride on one of these yesterday. Squeaky as all hell for the first and last third of my ride. Not sure why it stopped in the middle. Handled much better than the Lime, especially accelerating, even in turns. For some reason these are always a ten-minute walk from wherever I am. Cost @$2.05 for a 1.2 mi trip, but I think the first $1.00 was the unlock fee. For longer rides, seems like they might be more cost-effective.
Skip – These appeared late, but suddenly cropped up the other day at reasonable frequency. Handles well, a bit sturdier than the Bird. Ride history isn’t available and the charges haven’t hit yet, but I think it it more comparable to the Lime prices, albeit with some kind of promotional pricing deal. Of the three, these seemed like the best combo of performance, price and quality.
As for riding them, they’re equal parts fun and terrifying. I haven’t ridden a scooter since the Razors first came out, and never in the street. They’re supposed to be ridden in the streets and on bike lanes only, and with helmets, which I’ve been good about only when I planned in advance to ride one, or happened to have already been riding when I grabbed a scooter.
I stand little higher on the bike, and the visibility is nice, but the steering with the short handlebars on the scooters is touchier, and I found it a little too easy to oversteer while looking around for cars, pedestrians, etc. They’re slow uphill, but still more fun then pedalling up a hill in 97 degree weather or sucking up all the wood smoke.
The good and bad side of them is that they are in-between. As fast as a bike without the strain. Cheaper than a Lyft. Faster than a bus, and not much more expensive for short rides. Easier to park. No worries about locking. But bicycles keep trying to pass me on them, even though I generally am faster than most bicyclists, except when accelerating from a dead stop. And they’re too fast to ride safely on the sidewalks, especially given the generally oblivious nature of Portland pedestrians. Car drivers can’t like the fact that there are even more things in the bike lanes, and I think, on average, people are still new/unsure enough on scooters that they are even less well-disciplined than bicyclists.
I think they’re great for short errand-running as long as it doesn’t involve carrying anything you can’t fit in a backpack, and as long as you’ve got reasonable bike lane/route options. I wouldn’t take one on Powell Blvd if you held a gun to my head.
I also wonder, though, why I wouldn’t just buy one, given the expense of renting one, if I could take it to the office and know I wouldn’t have to hunt for one after work. Or I could buy an electric bike for significanly more money but greater range. For casual riders though, I suspect they will find their niche here. That’s if people don’t steal them and continue to leave them in appropriate places, which seems to have been the case thus far. Would be curious what folks in other cities that have tried these think of them beyond what I’ve heard on the news.