We discussed the trend of micro mobility vehicles in a previous blog post and how it was transforming the shared transportation sector, and now we turn to another: e-scooter sharing. Scooters are L-shaped, typically foot pedalled devices with two wheels, a place for two feet in the centre, and a handle at the top for both hands, but electric scooters have opened up a new pathway for shared mobility.
In this post we will examine E-scooters, the latest craze to take over the shared mobility industry. Whether you love them or hate them, their popularity with the public is undeniable – the numbers speak for themselves.
the craze of E-Scooter Sharing: trend or future?
By 2050, 66% of the global population will reside in urban areas. The transportation industry is currently struggling to meet the requirements of all citizens. Public transportation is either over or under-used depending on the time of day and due to traffic congestion, drivers are spending an increasing amount of time commuting between their residence and workplace.
Parking is an issue, too. On average, drivers searching for parking spaces account for 10% of traffic circulation which adds to daily delays. Alternative methods of transport are vital to the progress and the future sustainability of a city; enter the realm of the e-scooter.
WHEN DID THE E-SCOOTER CRAZE BEGIN?
In December 2016, a startup called ‘Spin’ was launched. It focused primarily on vehicles that urban dwellers would have fun riding and would be easy to pick up and easy to drop off. They were the first company to launch a fleet of dockless bicycles in America, but soon realized that people wanted more “bang’ for their buck” and expanded into the popular and profitable e-scooter market.
The big players in the e-scooter economy are Bird, Lime and Spin. In March 2018, the three startups rolled out hundreds of motorized scooter rentals in downtown San Francisco in the span of a few weeks. They currently have e-scooters in San Francisco, San Jose, Austin and Washington DC with dozens more cities planning to receive them this year.
Since March, Spin has seen a 61% day over day increase in rides since it launched in San Francisco. Each scooter gets four to five rides per day, at $3 to $4 dollars a pop. Venice-based Bird, with $115 million in funding and over 1,600 scooters in San Francisco, provided more than 95,000 rides to 32,000 different people in just its first 30 days of service in the city.
How do these platforms work? In order to use the e-scooter services, you must download the app for each company. Then, using GPS you can find and a nearby scooter and unlock it through the app. The apps will explain some safety information and explain where you can ride, how to use the scooter and where to park. You end your ride using the app once more. It’s that simple.
WHY use e-SCOOTER sharing?
COST AND INCLUSION
These electric scooters are a much cheaper alternative to hailing an Uber or Lyft. To ride, it is $1 plus $0.15 per minute. Due to their low cost, e-scooters can be used by anyone in the community with an appropriate driver’s license. It is a socially inclusive method of transportation, but because of the nature of riding a scooter, it is more attractive to younger groups.
E-scooters are undoubtedly an asset in moving more people towards a greener, more sustainable future. As they are electric powered, they reduce carbon emissions compared to those people commuting by car.
Many riders are hailing the electric scooters as a convenient solution for last-mile type transit, a way to get from home or work to the train or metro, for example. With top speeds of around 15 mph, electric scooters are a fast and fun way to get around.
REDUCE TRAFFIC AND CONGESTION
By riding a scooter in the bike lane, it is easy to cut out any unnecessary congestion drama. There is also no need to search endlessly for a parking spot, because these scooters can be parked anywhere for the next customer to use.
THEY ARE LOTS OF FUN!
We can’t forget to include how much fun they are to ride. To be able to unleash your inner kid, while getting to work and helping the environment surely has to be a bonus?
ISSUES FACED BY E-SCOOTER Sharing startups
There have been complaints for customers that finding a scooter in good working condition can be challenging. Some ‘Spin’ scooters have ended up in trees, at the bottom of the San Francisco Bay, broken and some even covered in faeces. The company says it’s losing more than 2.5% of its total scooter population per month. However, every scooter that survives a month or so pay for itself.
In order for these scooter schemes to be successful the vehicles must be plentiful, easy to find and charged. This creates a lot of physical work for the startups. Spin, Bird, and Limebike need human reps out on the streets, charging, maintaining, and distributing the scooters, ensuring they’re in the right places at the right rush hours.
E-scooter shares have achieved what free-floating carsharing operators have struggled to do: they rely on the Gig economy to relocate scooters, which we discussion in our Relocation Whitepaper. Each company offers residents $5-$10 to charge scooters in their homes overnight and place them at designated sites the next morning.
INJURIES AND INSURANCE
E-Scooters are arguably easier to ride than bikes but California still requires e-scooter riders to have a driver’s license. They also legally require the rider to wear a helmet.
Even though it is illegal for the scooters to be ridden on sidewalks in many places, that hasn’t stopped countless riders from breaking the rules and weaving through pedestrians at top speeds, which could eventually cause injury and has already in some areas. According to a city spokesperson, Santa Monica has recorded 11 e-scooter related accidents -some serious with 328 citations and 694 traffic stops. This is why there is some backlash for both pedestrians and government, particularly in San Francisco which is creating a specialized permitting program for e-scooter-share. Officials want to cap the number of vehicles each outfit can deploy which could affect the startups scaling up.
THE FUTURE OF E-SCOOTER sharing
There is enormous and exciting potential for e-scooters as a main mobility service. Throughout the past 100 years, cars have become the cornerstone of unsustainable transportation. In the U.S alone, there are 37,000 traffic-related deaths per year. The loss of land due to parking is enormous, for example 14% of Los Angeles is dedicated to parking.
The verdict? Well, the jury is out on what type of trips e-scooter shares are replacing. Is it the personally owned vehicle trips, which is what Lime is claiming, or is it public transit or street pedestrians that e-scooters are replacing? We are curious and look forward to reading the first research papers on this topic!
We believe that a new method of mobility that disrupts the status quo and improves society for everyone will have an essential role in the sustainability of future cities. This means that, if you were to ask us, e-scooter sharing is more than just a passing craze. Interested in learning more about starting your own e-scooter program? Contact us here.