Love 'em or hate 'em: Everything you need to know about e-scooters
Editor's note: This post has been updated with additional data from the TPG Lounge. This post was originally published Sep. 28, 2019.
Love 'em or hate 'em, the last few years have seen an explosion in the use of ride-share electric scooters.
Especially convenient for those looking to cover short distances quickly, e-scooters are a handy mode of transportation for those without access to cars or bikes. Stats show over 80% of riders use the service for trips of less than one mile, according to a spokesperson for Lime Scooters, one of the largest e-scooter operators on the market, which recently hit 100 million rides — an impressive number for a company that's only been around for about two years.
The two other major players in the e-scooter space are Lyft, which has set up shop in more than 20 cities across the US, and Bird, in more than 100 cities around the world.
The influx of these scooters in communities, however, has also come with its own set of problems. Many users disregard laws around where to ride, leave the scooters strewn on sidewalks and fight pedestrians on foot for sidewalk space. In fact, some cities have even banned e-scooters because of the issues they've caused.
That left us with one question for travelers: Do you love them or hate them? We took to the TPG Lounge and found that the majority (50%) would prefer to "never see an e-scooter again" while others (34%) enjoy the convenience. Still others (16%) said they're a nice option for getting around, but that they’ve gotten out of control. "You just can't beat the amount of ground you can cover in a city with them. I think it's a matter of the person riding it, not the scooter itself," said TPG reader Jonathan F.
Related: See all of the responses by joining the TPG Lounge conversation on Facebook.
TPG reached out to a number of e-scooter companies including Lyft, Bird and Lime to gather tips they would like their own customers to follow — not only so riders will have the safest experience possible but also to ensure that e-scooters aren't having a negative impact on the communities that use them.
Here's what you can do to be a courteous rider.
Wear a helmet
This should be common sense, but it's worth saying anyway. You should always wear a helmet when on wheels. Accidents happen and by taking safety seriously you can help protect yourself by wearing a helmet. It can be inconvenient, but safety should come first when riding.
TPG reader Stephanie L. shared this rule explicitly after going through a terrible accident herself: "I did not have one In July and ended up with permanent nerve damage and staples were put in my skull after a horrible accident from hitting a numb in the pavement. Won’t ride one again without a helmet."
Understand the local rules
Each community or city may have different rules and regulations regarding scooters. While Lime has information for general use and Lyft requires users to undergo a bit of in-app education before they can take their first ride, riders need to be aware of local laws and regulations beyond the normal rules of the road. Lime even sends users in-app notifications with any additional local regulations users need to know before hitting the road.
Don't ride on the sidewalk
A spokesperson for Lime told TPG via phone that the company wants its customers to stay off of sidewalks for their rides. Instead, customers should ride on the street with the flow of traffic or use bike lanes when they are available. Most of the major e-scooter ride-share apps now easily show users where there are bike lanes that can be used instead of riding with traffic.
Not only are scooters dangerous to ride on the sidewalk, but they can also cause major issues if left laying on the sidewalk for those with mobility issues. Tami L. from the TPG Lounge doesn't like them, saying, "They block sidewalks and bus stops all over LA, so instead of safely walking down the sidewalk or wheeling down one in a wheelchair, I've seen people with mobility issues have to go into the street to avoid them, putting themselves in danger. I saw a blind person almost trip over one trying to get on a bus, until someone nearby was able to help him avoid it."
Making a left turn? Use the box turn instead
For riders, left turns can be hard to manage in traffic. Bird suggests using the "box turn" instead: Maneuver to the right lane corner of an intersection, wait for the green light on the cross street, then move with the flow of traffic. This allows the rider to make turns simply without having to navigate the traffic and uncertainty of a turn lane.
Don't drink and scoot
So you've been out for a night on the town with your friends and it's time to head home. If you've been drinking, taking a scooter isn't a good idea. Lime actually has an in-app sobriety test you will need to pass to unlock a scooter for late-night rides. Instead, grab public transportation or upgrade your ride-share to a driver with Uber or Lyft to get home safely.
Be a steward of the system
One issue some cities are having is not what happens during the ride, but what happens when that ride is over. Scooters being left wherever the rider finished their journey, clogging up sidewalks and inhibiting the flow of pedestrian traffic.
When you finish your ride, place the scooter out of the way. Bird allows customers to find proper parking stations directly in the app, and get in-app directions to each location. Bird also allows customers to report scooters that have been improperly parked or damaged.
The spokesperson for Lime said the company encourages users to pick up scooters that may be turned over, or move them out of the way if another rider leaves a scooter in a less-than-convenient place, even if it's a competitor's scooter. Doing so will make the system better for everyone and show that the new technology can be used with little to no negative impact on the communities it serves.
Remember that the rules of the road apply to scooters just like they do bikes and cars. If you're a user of the e-scooter ecosystem, be a good representative and help lessen any negative impacts this new technology may have on your local community. And don't forget that helmet.
Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor and Liz Hund.
Featured Photo by Horacio Villalobos - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images