Are Electric Scooters Viable Forms of Transportation?

Birds and Limes. These are new verbs that have redefined the definition of transportation. If you haven’t already seen these electric scooter monstrosities, then you’re from another planet.

These cheap and fun scooter services have not only invaded Los Angeles, they have spread across the world. Scooters are not a tech gimmick, they’ve made a comeback due to their easy and dependable service. But how far can these things really take you?

After riding both Bird and Lime for five months, short distance travel is where these services excel giving users 18 to 37 miles per charge. Not only are these scooters popular, they can surprise those who are car-less. Especially the ones who live in cities like Los Angeles where commuting is a pain and hardship.

The Atlantic/Bird Scooters

The Atlantic/Bird Scooters

You cannot avoid LA traffic, one way or another you’ll get stuck. In some cases, Waze won’t even shave that many minutes off your alternate route. As someone who doesn’t own wheels, commuting in LA is even more of an uphill battle than for those who have vehicles.

LA simply has an unpredictable and unreliable public transportation network. With Uber and Lyft, you get the same results as you would driving your own car. These results have left a small void in cities like LA leaving companies like Bird and Lime to capitalize on a need for alternative transportation.

Bird and Lime do make for compelling alternatives to cars, rideshare, buses, trains, and bikes. Despite the short distance, these services are brilliant because of their seeming less navigation. With a few taps in the app, you can activate a nearby scooter and arrive at your destination no different than an UBER or Lyft.

That experience is what makes a company like Bird get valued at nearly two billion dollars. Why? The “dockless” feature, the ability to pick up and drop off from any location, is what draws users and investors. That feature has led me to use these services more and more because scooters are on every sidewalk.

That alone makes for an easy commute to work. Not only am I able to zip through traffic, I avoid the hassle of waiting for an Uber or bus that can be stuck in traffic. But the most compelling feature isn’t the fast and easy journey, rather the cheap cost in riding these scooters.

They’re extremely cheap with a bargain price of $1 to start followed by 15 cents per minute. I have tested my 4-mile commute to work during rush hour and these scooters stack up well beating Uber’s price and time. Uber takes me around 15-20 minutes costing between $8 to $12, with Bird and Lime it takes me 12 minutes costing a max of $4.

Bird and Lime are not just a niche, they are a legitimate form of transportation for metropolitan cities. Not only are millennials riding these scooters, there is a wide demographic of people using them to get to work, pick up food, meet a friend, etc. For being cheap, fun, and reliable alternatives, the popularity of these scooters is unprecedented.

Yet, the biggest controversy surrounding Bird and Lime is safety. Cars and pedestrians are increasingly upset at how fast people are going on these scooters. In a nutshell they’re right, these scooters are dangerous with top speeds at 18 MPH. Users can definitely hurt people or get hurt with these scooters. I myself have fallen a couple times and have dodged some close calls even on the dedicated bike lanes.

With no regulation still in place, it will be interesting to see where Bird and Lime land beyond 2019. In a Vice News report, San Francisco has taken extreme measures to ban and exile Birds. As lawsuits continue to pile, the electric scooter industry is getting even more competitive with heavy weights like UBER and Lyft rolling out their own electric scooters. For the time being, the electric scooter revolution is here to stay.

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