Sustainable Transportation Part 1: My e-scooter experience. Is it worth it?

This is the first article in my three part series on sustainable transportation.

I am always looking for sustainable transportation methods so I was excited to try out the new e-scooters that recently took over the town.  Both the Lime and Bird seemingly appeared in abundance overnight.  On a beautiful spring day I grabbed my bike helmet and I decided to try them both for a trip to my office which is about 3 miles by car (and 10-15 minutes depending on traffic).

I started the day with a 15 minute walk to the location of
the closest scooter, a Bird.  It was easy
to scan the code with the app and get started. 
The Bird scooter charges $1.00 to unlock and 15 cents per minute.  The app required me to preload $10 to my account,
but I also received a free $5 credit for my first ride.  The scooter requires a manual kick-push, like
on a skateboard, to get the electronic accelerator going.  It seemed a little slow to start, but once it
got going it was pretty fast.  Both the accelerator
and brake are thumb levers and the brake was very touchy!  I had to get the hang of the thumb brake so I
wasn’t hitting it too hard.  The one hill
I encountered proved to be a challenge and about half way up I began using one
foot to “help” the scooter along, skateboard-style.  The scooter vibrated a lot from the pavement
and when I was done with my 1.8 mile ride my feet still felt like they were vibrating.  This leg of the journey was a pitstop on my
way to the office.  The 1.8 mile ride
took 15 minutes (with two long stoplights) and cost $3.42.

After my pitstop, I jumped on a Lime scooter to continue the
.9 mile ride to my office.  The Lime also
costs $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute. 
The app was easy to use and I scanned the code and got going right
away.  Lime doesn’t require a pre-loaded
dollar limit on the account.  The Lime scooter
is larger than the Bird and seemed a bit sturdier.  The brake on the lime is a hand lever, much
like a bicycle, and it took some grip strength to pull in.  Unfortunately, the scooter I was on had a
seriously wobbly handle and the ride was not smooth.  Once again I had vibrating feet when I was
done.  The .9 mile ride took 6 minutes
and cost $1.90.

My ride back home later in the afternoon was much more challenging.  First, I walked about 10 minutes to the first scooter I could find, a Lime.  However, I couldn’t get it to activate.  Luckily I was in an area that had a lot of scooters so I walked for a bit to find another one.  What ensued next was the most frustrating part of my day.  Over the course of about 20 minutes I tried 4 Lime scooters and 3 Bird scooters.  Two of them were still in use by other users, so I couldn’t use them.  None of the others would connect.  I don’t know if this was a cellular network issue or a vendor server issue but it was quite frustrating.  During this 20 minutes I was making my way on foot towards home.  Finally, I found a Lime scooter that connected and I took it the rest of the way home.  My trip home took 35 minutes (due to the walkaround/connection setback) to go 2.3 miles and it cost $4.  I found out once I got home that one of the Bird scooters and one of the Lime scooters that I tried to connect to finally connected and I got charged for that too.  I contacted customer support for both and they quickly refunded my money.

Total walk/ride to office: About .3 mile walk and 2.7 mile scoot, 36 min total, $5.32

Total walk/ride home: About a .9 mile walk and 2.3 mile scoot, 45 minutes, $4.00

Total round trip: 1 hour and 21 minutes, $9.32.

Pros:

  • Both e-scooters have easy to use apps.
  • Both e-scooters are environmentally friendly methods of transportation, although there has been some discussion on the longevity of these shared e-scooters.
  • Both apps required me take a photo of my excellent parking job, which makes me wonder why I see so many poorly parked e-scooters blocking sidewalks.
  • For occasional use, these are a great alternative method of transportation.

Cons: 

  • I found it hard to hand signal like I do on a bike.
     Taking one hand off the handlebars made
    me very unbalanced.  That may be
    something that I get used to over time. 
  • I had to be careful with turning the handlebars as
    this can throw off the balance of the scooter. 
    Leaning into turns is more effective than trying to turn the handlebars too
    much.
  • I think that a $9.32 round trip cost for about 6
    miles is expensive.  Especially if this
    is a daily mode of transportation.

Overall, I still like the concept of the e-scooter.  Owning my own e-scooter may be the way to go.  It would always be close by and available for me, I wouldn’t have any connection issues, and I can maintain it better to ensure longevity and a comfortable ride.  It costs about $500 to purchase a highly-rated foldable scooter.  I would recoup my investment in about 50 rides similar to my test ride.

If you are not into the scooters, read about my e-bike experience in Part 2!

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