- Electric scooters are a polarizing new mode of transportation that is taking over American cities.
- I rode electric scooters for the first time during a trip to Los Angeles, and my experience was harrowing, thrilling, and freeing. Ultimately, scooters became my new favorite mode of transportation.
- I tried all the brands I saw, including Lime, Uber, Lyft, and Bird. Of the scooters I tried, Lyft’s was by far my favorite.
- However, my experience also taught me that the public safety infrastructure for riders and those who share the road with them needs to be built before scooters can fulfill their revolutionary potential.
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Electric cars, electric bikes, and now electric scooters?
Scooters are a staple of childhood. Many a ’90s kid fondly remembers scooting about on their Razor scooters before coming home to a snack of flavor-blasted X-treme cheddar Goldfish and maybe some sliced apples. So it’s not astonishing that when electric scooters entered the scene, they generated confusion and ridicule as well as enthusiasm.
No one asked for electric scooters. We were content with our buses and our trains and our cars, and some of us with our bikes. But then, the electric scooter quietly slipped onto our streets.
They proliferated in our urban spaces with the promise of a mode of transportation that was more personal, eco-friendly, and fun. But with new mobility, they also brought new danger. Urban spaces aren’t built for electric scooters, but they’re filled with them anyway, leading to numerous accidents, injuries, and deaths.
As a regular subway rider, I’m pretty nervous about how I move about in public spaces. I refuse to ride bikes in cities because I’m afraid of getting hit by a car. Driving scares me. I have a driver’s license, but I’ve never owned a car.
But on a recent trip to Los Angeles, I refused to rent a car and found myself without much in the way of public transit. As a result, I used scooters to make distances meet. Here’s what it was like to scoot around LA for a week:
My very first rental was a Lime scooter outside of the subway station.
It proudly boasted that it had been designed in California.
From what I heard, all I had to do was download an app and scan that little QR patch on the handle.
I downloaded the Lime scooter app.
Then I added a payment method, enabled my camera, and scanned the QR patch. Voila!
The app gave me a set of safety instructions that I could not follow: wear a helmet and don’t ride on sidewalks. I asked a nearby policeman if I could ride on the sidewalk. He said yes.
I was ready to ride! If only I could figure out how …
To make it go, I pressed a lever on the right handle. To make it stop, there was a brake lever on the left handle.
Soon, I was awkwardly stopping and going through crowds of tourists on the sidewalks of Hollywood.
It’s illegal to ride scooters on the sidewalks in Los Angeles, but there wasn’t really a way to ride on the streets safely from what I could see.
It was a bumpy and harrowing ride. The scooter didn’t deal well with minor bumps, and I felt like I might fly off at any moment. I reached my destination after 14 minutes for a cost of $6.
After my terrifying afternoon on a Lime bike, I was hesitant to touch another scooter. But the bright red of Uber’s Jump scooter was hard to resist.
Again, Uber hits the user on the figurative nose with its safety warnings and instructions.
Who carries a helmet around with them? How does one ride on streets that are full of aggressive cars?
Forgive me, city of Los Angeles, for I ignored all the safety instructions. I couldn’t see how I would be able to follow them.