Electric Scooters in DC: My first Micromobility Experience

Posted on Thu 16 May 2019 in Analysis

Consider the following points:

  • 50% of people’s rides are less than 12 miles. Of that, a majority fall under 4.
  • A car is one of the biggest financial burdens people buy. They’re expensive and sit idle for most of the time.
  • Urbanization means that by 2040, a 50% of people are going to live in 8 cities.
  • Traffic is only going to get worse
  • Electric scooters are fun as heck to ride.

All of these points means that parking and life in cities is going to be at a premium, and that we’re going to need more ways to be transported around cities. And I think electric scooters are going to be the way that we do that.

My experience with electric scooters thus far

So far I’ve managed to avoid seeing signs of the Micromobility revolution - some uber/lyft, public transit, and docked bikes, but nothing truly dockless. And the freedom of being able to set the scooter wherever opens up one’s transportation options.

When landing in DC, they’re absolutely unmistakable. There were 2 or 3 on every street corner and I could immediately tell their intent.

I was shocked about how similar all of the scooters were. Sure, some were taller and some were shorter. They all cost about the same ($1 for activation and 17-27 cents a minute). The only real differences were the coloring, the apps, and the population in the city where I was.

In my area of DC, the most common scooter seemed to be Skip, followed by Bird and Uber/Lyft. It turns out that this was because my hotel was right next to Skip’s headquarters!

General Pain Points

  • For a majority of my time in DC, I was in a group of four. Unless we came across a fresh group of scooters, it was mostly impossible for us to find four together.
  • Additionally, scooters with limited charge seemed to be common. We’d come across a group of scooters, but their batteries were dead. This was frustrating to experience, but should help as we get more and more conversant with the apps themselves.
  • Navigating with the scooters was rough. In an unfamiliar city, using the GPS to get around is key, but holding the phone and the scooter was a dangerous mix
  • Battery drain. Speaking of using the phones, it seemed like the scooter constantly pinging the phone helped wear down the battery as well. I was certainly glad we brought several extra chargers.

Overall

On the trip so far, the scooters seemed to be benefits on the route as opposed to something we actively looked for. I think with extended usage and better customer offerings, the companies will able to build loyalty.

And to be clear, I had a blast riding them around DC. The National Mall made it the optimal place to use them, diving in and out of the monuments.