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Uber Will Rent Scooters Through Its App in Partnership with Lime (bloomberg.com)
170 points by venturis_voice 42 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 178 comments

I was thinking about the debate on scooters and it made me realize something:

Bike lanes are a disaster, probably one of the biggest mistakes in road design and planning.

The basic idea was sound, but it was done the wrong way. Everywhere you see a bike lane, that should've been the concrete sidewalk extended into that area with a painted stripe separating pedestrians and bicycles. Go to a beach and you can see the correct implementation. Our sidewalks are simply not wide enough.

What we have now is a cheap and bad solution. Nobody on bikes, scooter, etc. wants to be just a thin painted stripe away from cars that can kill them. But they are forbidden from sidewalks because they are too narrow.

The right way to add bike lanes would've been to extend the sidewalks into the road (where the current bike lanes are) by pouring concrete there. Full protection from cars, wide enough for pedestrians and bicycles, scooters, etc.

It's not too late to fix this, the bike lanes are there. Cities just need to spend the money to expand the sidewalks there. If they do this, there's potential for a true revolution in non-car mobility in the US.

The part you are missing, like most people who aren't used to exercise and see city planning in a car-centric way, is that a bicycle can go at a serious speed in a city.

Bike lanes in sidewalks work in beaches because bikers tend to drive at a comfortable cruising speed. Daily commuters usually bike in the ~15-25mph range in a city (and a lot faster in suburbs and country roads); that speed is dangerous for pedestrians. You are also disregarding turns and intersections, where it's much more convenient to stop as little as possible.

The solution to bike lanes is physically separated lanes that don't give lazy car drivers free parking space and don't penalize cyclists for traffic, but still allows them to move to the roads when there aren't many cars as in [1].

[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...

Detroit is using this type of bike lane on all newly renovated roads. Most notably East Jefferson which was just finished.

I just moved from Detroit but I’m still super excited about the city planning that’s taking place there, in particular the Jefferson calming! Cass has also had protected bike lanes for a little while now and they’re really nice. Detroit is kind of unique in that they have super wide streets that don’t really need to be nearly as wide as they are for the amount of traffic they carry.

There is some merit to that idea but I think you may be missing a few things. Often, parking is placed between a bike lane and the side walk. Bikes need to be able to cross lanes, often in cities, to make left turns. How can they do that when they're up on a curb to start, but additionally, with potential street parking in the way?

I think technically in many jurisdictions, bikes are to be treated as vehicles. Whether or not they're always treated that way is up for debate (and vice versa), but it may explain also partially why things were done that way.

Put the parking between the road and the bike lane/sidewalk instead. That's how most city streets are laid out in Copenhagen, af it provides a good safety buffer of parked cars.

Also how Oakland does it on Telegraph. San Francisco has switched to this solution on some streets (Folsom and Howard).

This doesn't include putting the bikes on the same grade as the sidewalk, but that's a relatively minor difference once you already have parked cars separating you from car traffic.

Bikes should not be crossing lanes along with traffic to make left turns, they should do what pedestrians do. Cross along one direction on the sidewalk, then cross in the 2nd direction. Bikes should not mix in with traffic, it's just chaos and safety issues all around.

Absolutely agree. Bikes in left turn lanes are hugely dangerous. They should go straight across, stop at the corner and then turn to go straight the other direction, when the light turns green.

I know some people get annoyed that it's slightly slower, but you avoid some seriously dangerous situations.

People in wheelchairs find ways to cross the street.

This is something that is well-known in planning circles. In Seattle there have been a huge number of road diet (widening the sidewalk and redesigning the road for slower traffic speeds) + protected bike lanes coming online. Pedestrians benefit from this, too, from the increased safety and the other pleasant effects of traffic calming. Here's a map: http://seattlecitygis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/inde...

And there are a number of ongoing projects. See: https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs...

> Bike lanes are a disaster... Go to a beach and you can see the correct implementation.

I do agree, but the bike lanes in a city CBD need to serve a different purpose from those at the beach.

The city bike lanes have a lot of commercial traffic (bike couriers) and people commuting, mostly adults, so they are travelling faster and "with intent".

The bike lanes at the beach are for leisure and are much, much slower, without the urgency. A lot more kids on bikes too.

They are planning to do this with Market Street in San Francisco. I attended an informational meeting (open to public) about this and other nearby streetscape improvements. Many of the people present were afraid bikes will be running over pedestrians, the fear fueled in part by the recent proliferation of electric scooters. I don't agree that this is the right concern, but I just want to illustrate that the idea might not be popular with the general public.

Have there been any confirmed injuries from people being run over by scooters in San Francisco? I tried a quick search but came up empty.

If I recall correctly, the only confirmed injury from the recent influx of scooter sharing was from someone tripping over a parked scooter. But the meeting I'm referring to happened about a year ago, and the fear was mostly geared towards private electric longboards and "hoverboards", I think.

As a cyclist, while I see where you are coming from, I would prefer to be on the road. It's much quicker when you are a first class citizen. The solution the dutch have is far better. They have bike roads (not lanes). The way to retro fit this in the US would be to embed physical divider bollards in the road.

It's been tried and it's really not that easy.

- Cars will make turns that cross your protected bike path and with parking in the way, a bike's already minimal visible cross section is reduced even more.

- Bikes need to make left turns which is difficult when there are parked cars in the way.

- Pedestrians will happily walk everywhere in your bike lane (oblivious to your bell ringing due to headphones), regardless of whatever paint you delineate the two areas.

In areas with these kinds of bike lanes, I generally ride in the street with the cars. It's safer and faster.

>"Cars will make turns that cross your protected bike path and with parking in the way, a bike's already minimal visible cross section is reduced even more."

Proper turning/bike lane design and prioritized space for cyclists takes good care of this. In lighted intersections, stagger the lights so bikes have priority.

>" Bikes need to make left turns which is difficult when there are parked cars in the way."

Make bikes do hook turns (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hook_turn) instead of using the cars' left turn lanes. It's significantly safer and doesn't require bikes to cross traffic lanes.

>"Pedestrians will happily walk everywhere in your bike lane (oblivious to your bell ringing due to headphones), regardless of whatever paint you delineate the two areas."

Delineate with a curb instead of just a line, to make the separation clear.

> Proper turning/bike lane design and prioritized space for cyclists takes good care of this. In lighted intersections, stagger the lights so bikes have priority.

At the one intersection I'm most familiar with, a separate bike light almost always results in the driver becoming confused and causing a near crash. I've learned to wait a few seconds to avoid being hit.

> Make bikes do hook turns (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hook_turn) instead of using the cars' left turn lanes. It's significantly safer and doesn't require bikes to cross traffic lanes.

That takes signficantly longer, as you're guaranteed to sit through at least one signal phase. Again at my favoritist intersection ever, hook turns are what are marked but only newbie bikers use this technique. Everyone else just takes their chances doing something radical so they're no better off.

A certain minimum level of driver/rider education and sense of self-preservation is also needed, obviously.

It’s not the majority, but Berlin has ~150km of bicycle paths on sidewalks: https://web.archive.org/web/20080922140453/http://www.stadte...

When I was there, I kept walking in the bike lane by accident and ended up upsetting some cyclists.

In Berlin I ride on the road

The only reason it works on a beach is that there aren't drive ways and intersecting streets. Are you proposing that we make the side walks level with the street? If so, then it's no different than what we have now, and if not, then you'll have ramps every block that go from street level and back up to sidewalk level?

the challenge is that this needs to be done consistently - in my town, they built a raised bike lane beside and level with the sidewalk but only for about 100m. it's red concrete and marked with signs and paint, but everywhere else in town bicycling on sidewalks is illegal. If you dare ride your bike on this "bike lane", you get anything from scowled at to sworn at by pedestrians who think you're biking on "their" sidewalk. and of course, the challenge with doing it consistently, even for a small town, is that it's expensive. retrofitting a bike lane on the asphalt only costs as much as some paint.

the cheaper, easier, and move obvious solution is to simply pour a curb separating the bike lane and the car lanes. you don't have to raise the whole bike lane up to sidwalk level, just 6" at the edge. and that's what many cities are doing.

Have you ever ridden a bike on the sidewalk without any pedestrians to worry about? It's not a good experience. Bike lanes are fine.

This is basically how it is in Japan. Just bigger sidewalks. Bike mostly welcome. Of course this forces them to slow down a bit.

I do have faith that all the necessary “revolutions” like this will ultimately get done by the millenial generation.

Check out the way China does it— bike and scooter lanes completely separated from traffic.

Yeah, I don't understand how cyclists can put so much trust in every single car that drives by them. All it takes is one distracted driver and you get serious injury or worse.

We don't trust them. And negligent drivers are among the easiest to deal with. They're usually swerving, texting, slow to accelerate from lights or parked haphazardly. Most of the time you can give them space when you spot the signs. The scariest ones are the drivers who do close passes, cut you off to turn or scream out threats or profanities.

The #1 lesson I took to heart when I took my motorcycle license was "ride as though every car driver is trying to kill you".

When I was handed the license, my instructor told me "congratulations, you are now invisible".

You have to ride as if everyone is simultaneously oblivious to your presence and out to run you over all the time.

This partnership could also allow Uber driver partners to basically have another source of income - rebalancing the scooter/bike network and helping with charging (ex. someone drives for Uber Eats, drops off a scooter at pickup restaurant to charge). Current Lime freelance chargers are making ~$1400 earnings per month[1] so this could start being substantial and help the growth for both companies

[1] https://www.axios.com/how-lime-is-pitching-its-bike-a-152949...

That $1400/month number strikes me as dubious. They mention the charger earns $30-50/day. Assuming a standard 22-day work month, $1400 would have to be $63/day. A more realistic number seems to be $40 * 22 days, or $880/month. Which is not a lot of money in the expensive cities Lime is active in.

Man... $880 a month to drive around Seattle sounds miserable.

What else can you do in Seattle with absolutely zero skill or qualifications and no willingness to commit that pays that well?

Not a joke question. I'd have loved any fraction of $880 a month when I was in college and was otherwise worth nothing and couldn't get a traditional shitty part time job because I had unpredictable hours due to school.

valet parking or catering

It's common for gig companies to limit payouts, because it lowers the cost of fraud, which is common. A smart charger charges for multiple companies, and could easily hit higher payouts that way.

Huh. Wouldn't charging for multiple companies increase my ability to commit fraud? I steal smaller amounts from each company, and each company having less data makes it harder for them to detect fraud.

Yea it does. But if you fraud multiple companies you're increasing the odds one will detect you.

This is why companies don't rely only on their own data, they do credit checks, and buy data from third parties.

They were active in at least one Midwest city (Indianapolis) until last week, so $880 might not be a full-time job there, but would be a very nice supplementary income.

I cannot imagine a VC-funded gig-economy company failing to notice that if they can pay people $x in SF, they can probably pay people $0.3x to $0.5x in Indianapolis. [1]

[1] https://www.bestplaces.net/cost-of-living/indianapolis-in/sa...

I worked as a charger - made $11k in a month. Only had a month until SF shut them down. I imagine payouts will get compressed as the market matures. Earnings are also highly dependent upon the scooter density of the area you service and the amount of charger competition in that area.

Interested to know how you managed that; a specific technique or someone helping you or some such?

This was all on my own. Being in a central location in a high density environment helps a lot. After that it's just good old fashion operational efficiencies and hustle.

at $20/payout, that would be 550 charged in a month or 18/day. Doesnt it take like 4 hours to charge each one? How much did your electric bill go up?

Average payout was $12 for Lime, $12.27 for Bird over the 905 scooters I charged. These were inflated payouts due to the launch in SF. Electricity usage was surprisingly minimal due to usage being in non-peak hours (late night/early morning). Bird quotes $.20/scooter charging expense. My costs were closer to $.02/scooter.

How are you getting time-based rates in residential SF?

wow - can you ping me b@langonline.com working on something i'd love to chat about

This additional source of income will only last until we fully implement ASR's - Autonomous Scooter Rebalancers.

Just have them self-drive to a charger.

They are going to self-drive everywhere, I suspect. It's much easier to make a scooter or a bicycle autonomous than a car.

There's at least one company around here working on self-delivering bicycles. The idea is that you call one up on your phone and wait by the curb, and the bike will come cruising up to you. When you're done, you just hop off, and the bike cruises to its next renter (or charger) rather than lying around littering the place up.

> It's much easier to make a scooter or a bicycle autonomous than a car.

No it's not. Less stable platform. Exact same issues with obstacle detection and avoiance, path planning and scene understanding with less available power for sensors and compute. Higher relative sensor cost. Fewer closed environments like highways. Added issue of being able to steal them more easily.

Yo, I'm with that company doing the AV scooters and bikes, and yes it's much easier to nav than a car, we're looking at two magnitudes easier as far as computing power. We won't do autonomous with riders on-board so we can go slow and be conservative. Sensors are more than two orders of magnitude cheaper, we can use ToF laser rangefinders that are close to mobile phone grade.

Where are you testing?

None of those factors are of any importance whatsoever next to the key one: less likely to kill people when something goes wrong.

Stealing a GPS-tagged autonomous bike or scooter is also not going to go especially well for whoever tries it.

Exactly, our mistakes are not inherently catastrophic. Stability is actually much harder than navigating.

I think it's time for someone to invent Uber Walk: someone physically picks you up and carries you to your destination

I would totally download an app that listed people in my area beneath my stated weight threshold who wanted piggyback rides.

However, it should prevent you from changing your weight threshold more than once every 2 days. Otherwise, you'd be able to binary-search to find random people's weights.

Yes, but eventually Uber Walk would be rebranded Uber Walk Premium and a new service under the old Uber Walk name would be started where you get a 50% discount for walking yourself.

You can save even more money with Uber Walk Express, but you have to walk three blocks away from your destination.

You can hail hand-pulled rickshaws in a couple cities in India, which seems pretty close to this. There might even be an app for it.

Also in Tulsa Oklahoma.

I saw (on TV) a guy who charged to walk "with" you.

not novel enough; the romans did that thousands of years ago

You mean the litter chairs?


Funny name, given how the scooters are regarded. Edit: Just saw this comment after I posted: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17491873

yes and the lecticae, i believe they were popular in Rome because carriages were not allowed.

Why not keep the scooters in the cars. Grab one on the way out, leave it behind when you get home. Request an uber with a scooter in it. There will have to be some leveling between cars but that’s surely easier than blanketing the city.

Why would I need a scooter when the uber takes me door to door.

Mass transit would benefit better from a scooter partnership.

For carpooling where you’d normally walk the final portion. Also for multiple destinations with short hops between them.

I think docked bike shares had the following problems:

- they were spaced too far apart

- they weren't in residential areas

The dockless bikes, and scooters, were a response to that. We could go back to using docks if we solved those two problems.

Or what if there was a hybrid approach, incentivising users who brought their bike / scooter to a dock by making the ride cheaper or free?

In my city, the docked bikes are $8 for a day pass. That's way too high an entry point for me to ride to lunch a little farther than I can walk. Not to mention that I might get on a bike and find my destination rack full, therefore having to go to the next nearest dock to try to end my ride (and walk that distance on foot). A more economical choice is the $80/yr pass, but that's also a very steep entry point.

Your probably not the market in London its mostly commuters where $80 is trivial compared to the several k that your season ticket

You could just buy a bike for 80 bucks (albeit a poor quality one).

And then you have to keep it somewhere whenever you ride it some place.

As its only £80 just park it on the street with a couple of decent locks.

We have a hybrid approach like this in San Francisco - it's called Scoot and it is like an electric Vespa, not a push scooter or a pedal-assist bike. You drive it in traffic lanes like a car or motorcycle.

You can park them on the street in a regular parking spot (in most neighborhoods), or park them in a garage charging spot and get $1 off your ride. If you return a sidewalk-parked Scoot that is almost out of power, then your ride is free. It works pretty well and the pricing seems pretty fair.

It's funny, even though I've known about Scoot for a while, and I see their vehicles sometimes (relatively rarely, and in random residential neighborhoods), I've never had the slightest interest in trying it. The electric push-scooters were available for a much shorter time, but I did try them.

I wonder why. Perhaps Scoot just looks like a much bigger hurdle? If I'm going to rent this big thing, put on a helmet and everything, then I might as well just call a Uber and call it a day? I don't know.

Not sure exactly what you are thinking, but I do think empowering Uber drivers to relocate scooters to high demand areas (where the driver tends to also go) would make a lot of sense.

The cars could charge the scooters as well.

Taxify already has a rider feature in Nairobi, Kenya, called Boda within their app. It's insanely cheap and the ability to circumvent traffic is a huge plus. I'm happy this is coming to Uber as well.

These scooters are a menace in Oakland -- people are riding them down crowded sidewalks at 20 MPH

I don't know about Oakland, but in Boston these wouldn't be legal to ride on the sidewalk. Hell, they're barely legal to ride in the bike lane (only motorized vehicles that can't exceed 35 mph and that make a motor smaller than a certain size). Combine that with the fact that most riders won't be wearing helmets and it's a potentially deadly accident waiting to happen.

it is not legal to ride them on the sidewalk here (neither are bikes legal to ride on the sidewalk) but I see it everyday now -- with folks yelling "get out of my way"

For the curious, the maximum motor size to ride in the bike lanes in Boston is 50cc.

cc is a measurement of displacement, only useful for combustion engines.

Equivalent for electric motors would be Wattage.

Well off course, anything near a road is deadly. Just standing on the side of the road can be deadly. Anything around cars at all is incredibly dangerous. It is absolutely insane we allow cars anywhere near people.

It sort of looks like litter when I see all the bikes and scooters just left on sidewalks all over town.

Just the bikes and scooters? Not, say, the idle cars left on streets all over town?

Cars are at least parked in designated spots/areas. Dockless bikes and scooters don't have a designated space to park in; they have to be left on the sidewalk, and they can be dropped anywhere.

This is such a boondoggle. I rarely see any birds, lime bikes, orange bikes, ofos, etc. parked in places other than off to the side of the sidewalk, or in a bike rack. When I do, I move them.

Most people, generally speaking, are good people. They put bikes where they're supposed to be, they put scooters where they're supposed to be etc. It isn't just enlightened tech commenters who know that a bike should go in a bike rack.

This hasn't been my experience at all when walking around Santa Monica. It seems like about half the time Birds are parked in a reasonable place - in an alcove designed for bike parking, on the edge of the sidewalk on the Promenade, off to the side next to a door - and the rest are just... random. It's not at all uncommon to see three or four Birds parked in the middle of the sidewalk in front of a popular store or restaurant.

The last time I was over there, it seemed like someone was going around and purposefully knocking them over: https://scontent-dfw5-1.cdninstagram.com/vp/1cd4296b10424b53...

txsh 42 days ago [flagged]

I know this might be a radical proposal but have you considered, when encountering a bicycle blocking part of a sidewalk, moving slightly to the left. I admit its a crazy proposal but it might help you while you’re waiting for the state to implement the death penalty for scooter infractions.

wont work for many disabled people

This might be the case for where you live, but I've see dozens of Lime bikes recently around the Boston area (not in Boston proper, but in Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea, Everett, etc.) that are just on sidewalks. The main problem is that there aren't really a ton of bike racks around. Usually when I bike somewhere, even in Boston proper, I have to search for a bit to find a bike rack. I imagine it's similar for other cities that don't really have the existing bike rack infrastructure.

Do you mean in the middle of the sidewalk, or to the side, against a wall? The former seems overtly malicious, the latter is a completely normal place to park a bike in cities where people ride bikes.

You must not live in San Francisco, where I saw multiple scooters every day parked in the middle of sidewalks or otherwise in the way of pedestrians. Until the city temporarily banned them.

These scooters need docking stations and the users parking them illegally need to be handed hefty fines, just as a motorist would be fined for parking their car illegally.

In Melbourne, our dockless bike provider, oBike, had to pull out because the council threatened them with fines for littering.

People just couldn't help throwing the bikes on train tracks, or in the river, or in trees, or basically anywhere that wasn't a bike rack. I don't think I ever saw an oBike in a bike rack.

This is not true. They came to an arrangements with the Melbourne city council, and hired people to go around and tidy it up.

They pulled out because too many people were dumping bikes in rivers and train tracks, and they weren't making enough money. They were reasonably popular.

Melbourne is a car addicted city though, and it is difficult to get anyone here to see an alternative.

You're right, I was oversimplifying the situation. The council threatened oBike with fines, so they came to arrangements to have cleanup crews, which then cost too much money, causing them to pull out.

I wouldn't say oBikes were reasonably popular. The only people I ever saw riding them were tourists in St Kilda, and homeless people who had broken the locks off them.

I'm surprised they don't have a technical solution -- like, say, have it take a photo from the scooter when you log out to validate you put it in a good spot. (Or gps if they have drop-off points, etc.)

Lime starting doing _exactly_ this in Denver before pulling out at the behest of the police department.

Bird requires this.

One man's "placed in designated spots" is another man's "dumped on the side of the road"

I honestly think we are just used to seeing idle cars all over the place that we don't "notice" them. There's no reason scooters won't be able to "blend in" in the same way over time.

In my fantasy world, we go the opposite direction and start realizing that all that idle car space could be used for parkland, housing, storefronts, bike lanes, miles-long slip'n'slides, pretty much _anything_ but wasted space in high-land-value areas.

How do you get there without having scooters or similar available everywhere instead?

Gotta solve the point-to-point problems of mass transit if you want to kill demand for cars.

How awesome would miles-long slip'n'slides be in hilly San Francisco? Bay to Breakers would never be the same.

It wouldn't be too difficult for cities to create designated 'parking spots' for scooters. Or require that they must be next to a bike rack. The apps all require you to take a picture of the scooter after parking, so it would be pretty easy to verify if someone moved it after the fact.

That wouldn't be too difficult, and I think some cities have done that. The problem is that it's difficult to enforce and there isn't much incentive to try; are they going to give out tickets for poor scooter parking? Who would they ticket? Bird/Lime, the user, or the unknown person who moved it afterwards?

I think docking stations are the better solution. Portland has docked shared bikes and they work well. It prevents the littering problem almost entirely, and it could provide a way to keep these scooters charged.

You're right that it would be hard to figure out the exact mechanics of the enforcement, but I think it can be done.

> I think docking stations are the better solution. Portland has docked shared bikes and they work well. It prevents the littering problem almost entirely, and it could provide a way to keep these scooters charged.

I strongly disagree. Docked bikes have been around for a while in most cities, and scooters have been a lot more popular because they are everywhere. If I use a docked bike to go 2 miles I'll spend half my time on either end walking to and from a dock.

The only way to make the docked model work is to have many small docks - several on every block, which isn't going to happen. My suggestion is essentially this (multiple docks on every block) without the need for infrastructure. Cars (which are way less space efficient) have more parking options that docked bikes, which makes 0 sense.

> The only way to make the docked model work is to have many small docks - several on every block, which isn't going to happen.

That's probably the root of the disagreement: ubiquitous docks seem perfectly possible to me. I wouldn't advocate for several on every block but I think there's a feasible level where they remain pretty common. Here in Portland the bike stations are close enough that you don't often have to walk more than 2-3 blocks [1]. It would be even easier to create scooter stations, since they're less than half the size of a bike -- small enough to put a 10-12 scooter station on a sidewalk corner without much fuss. That compares pretty favorably with bike stations, which usually need to take up street space (which I'm fine with, but it can create political/logistical barriers).

You make a fair point about the scooters' pervasiveness being important for their popularity. Looking again at the system I know best, Portland has a hybrid system: in the highest traffic areas you can leave a bike pretty much anywhere at no cost, and you can leave one anywhere at all for a $2 fee. To prevent bikes from being strewn about and/or poorly distributed they offer a program where you earn account credit if you return a bike to a station [2].

I think that kind of thing would work pretty well with scooters, since they need to be charged every so often. Bird already has their Charger program [3] that pays you to pick up and charge their scooters. Users could instead earn account credit for returning scooters to stations, especially if they need charging and/or that station is low on scooters. That would allow people to leave them around but would keep them charged and "crowdsource" the effort to cut down on scooter clutter.

[1] https://www.biketownpdx.com/map

[2] https://biketownpdx.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/3600011157...

[3] https://www.chargers.bird.co/join

Why would it be so hard to enforce? Treat the problem, not the symptom. If the problem is that people leave scooters in the middle of the sidewalk, pass a code that says scooters blocking a thoroughfare will be impounded. Don’t mandate to the companies where their property must be stored, let them know where it can’t be stored and hold them accountable thusly.

If Bird had to pay a fee to get scooters out of impound, I’m sure it would find a customer-friendly way to encourage its users to keep the scooters out of impound to begin with.

It seems like this problem is already solved with cars. If you leave a car in the middle of the street, it will get towed. Then the registered owner has to pay a fee to recover it. No worrying about whether to give a ticket to the last driver, or the owner, etc.

Or rather, the owner worries about recovering the fee from the last driver. This works fine for dockless car rentals; the only reason I can see that it wouldn't work for bikes is that the margins are too small to actually cover administering such a system.

This seems like over-solving the problem, to me. All that's needed is a general guideline: 'Scooters should be parked on the side of the sidewalk nearest the road, no more than 12" from the curb'.

Given that photos of the scooter are required by the apps anyhow, enforcement via a small fine should be trivial.

When they're actually parked in those spots. But the issue is idling cars (Ubers) taking up spots in the lane because they're waiting on people/don't want to leave a good pickup zone. I see it all the time in Seattle and it's made traffic significantly worse, particularly around Cap Hill. I see the bus drivers honk at them to get out of the bus stops at least once a week.

That happens in Portland as well, especially in front of streetcar and MAX stations. I think pretty much everyone dislikes that, but that would be more like standing still on your phone in front of an escalator than tossing a scooter on a sidewalk. Plus, there are laws in place that are supposed to prevent people from idling in active lanes, it's just a question of enforcement.

Sorry. I don’t want to abandon my mode of transportation to appease you OCD. Get over it.

We've banned this account for repeatedly violating the site guidelines and ignoring our requests to stop. If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.

And the mailboxes, and the newspaper boxes, benches, all of those parking meters, and trees. Yes, trees get in the way too don't ya know.

Surprises me that the newspaper boxes are still there. As a visitor to the US, they stand out and look so unsightly. Do the companies pay a fee for them to be there?

They're not typically "left on streets", but in designated parking spots, with specific rules and guidelines in place.

The rules and guidelines which essentially subsidize auto ownership with public space that could be better utilized. The current state of scooters probably falls too far on the "unregulated" side of things, but I'm bullish on solutions which reduce the need for curbside parking which will lead to additional transit / bike / other more productive uses of street space in urban areas.

I'm all for improving bikeability/walkability of cities, I'd just like to see it done with community input rather than a VC funded private company dumping their externalities on others.

The designated parking spots are typically on the streets. If there were no surface parking most roads would have two more lanes.

That's where you dump your horse after it dies of exhaustion. It's so much harder to do that with those infernal automobiles clogging the streets.

That's a silly argument. They have to be connected to the streets, unless you want to limit parking to off-road 4WD vehicles. They're adjacent to the street.

Look at how Tokyo does it. Almost no parking along streets.

Japan has a vastly different approach to public transit versus the US.

So? That's a result of city planning that could have happened in the US as well.

It didn't, though, so we must deal with the repercussions of those choices. I'm all for increasing the walkability of our cities, but I want a say in how that happens as a citizen, via my elected representatives. I'm not comfortable with Uber making those decisions for my city.

It's equivalent to finding cars parked on the curb, in streams, or upside down in someone's yard.

I got used to the bike shares in Seattle and I've never heard anyone really complain except initially when the city was getting used to them. Lime E-bike's are everywhere and are actually useful here. They stay pretty clear of walking paths.

I kinda disagree, they are left in the middle or take up a third of shared paths like the Burke-Gilman all of the time. Maybe we just gave up complaining?

I'm sorry, but that's a MASSIVE overstatement.

I kindly ask you to grab one of those bikes and do a few miles on the Burke. It's beautiful out, really hope you enjoy it.

I commute regularly on the Burke, it's wonderful. Cars are so much more of an issue on my commute. More bikes please!

I bike commute 6 miles each way 4-5 days a week, about 1/2 on the Burke and other paths. That is where my comment comes from. (A day late to amend, I suppose)

Especially around UW, there are ALWAYS rental bikes in the way. Not always dangerously so, but adding to congestion.

I am trying hard not to be too old-man-crotchety about this, but the part where the business model of these companies depends on storing assets on the public right of way ... grinds my gears.

Have you been to Southeast Asia? I think cars are littered all over the street.

I don't quite get the scooter renting. I own one. I put it under the desk in office and carry it into my flat. This is even better than bicycle which I would have to 'dump' on the street.

They haven't been around for long enough for users to develop culture/etiquette around parking them. Automobiles had the same problem when they were introduced, I believe.

So do cars in parking spaces.

Does it not qualify as litter?

I'm curious if anyone has an answer to this.

Well, that's going to kill Bird.

We will see. Been "workating" with my family in LA for a few weeks and we ended up using Bird much more especially because it looks like Lime require you to pay in bundles (10usd) and there are just way more Birds available than Limes. It might change now that Uber is involved but they would have to increase their scooters fleet quite a lot I think.

Been interesting because in New York Bird isn't something people talk about where as here it was everywhere (didn't hurt we lived at Venice beach either).

One thing I realized is how much the ability to just leave your bird/lime anywhere and just pick it up where it is, affects your desire to use it.

We will see the same uptick in bicycles in NY I think once you are not required to park them at specific places.

It's a little bit of a mess though especially down on the beach promenae but I think there are plenty of ways to encourage good behavior.

Where I live (San Diego), Lime and Bird have swapped places a couple of times for who has the most scooters on the street. They are both being really aggressive in increasing the number of units. It's not uncommon to see 10 of each lined up on a sidewalk.

It's also been fun to watch both companies experiment and revise their hardware. The original Lime scooters were slow and the Bird scooters were much stronger. With the v2 of each, it is reversed.

But from what I've heard second hand, increasing the number of units on the street isn't that expensive. I've heard that the units cost them in bulk ~$250 each and they quickly (< 3 months) earn that back. So the investment to blanket a city with scooters is way less than you'd expect and not the main barrier to entry. Of course that's second hand, so I could be totally wrong.

I love riding them at mission beach! I was sort of sad about the version 2. It had a speedometer but only would go 10mph, and the brake was so weird. The version 1s are much better.

Agressive is the right word I think Bird has the former Uber head of growth.

Lime doesn't require you to pay in bundles. There have been some days where I've seen more Limes around than Birds.

It required me to after my second ride. I went to rent another scooter, and it forced me to load a balance onto my account first. I would have just switched to Bird at that point, but there were no scooters nearby.

You should be able to get mostly the same benefit if there was plenty of places to park them.

I could theoretically rent a bicycle, but there are only four places I could park it.

Having tried both Bird and Lime in San Jose, I definitely prefer Bird. Both the Bird app and the scooter itself provide a better user experience than the Lime app/scooter, plus there were way more of them around. I feel like Uber backed the wrong horse here.

I doubt it. The market is diverse enough to enjoy both products. I like Bird (in San Antonio) and hope that it either gets acquired by Lyft or becomes strong independently.

Once again a successful prediction from Ben Thompson.

Link please.

From the article: >Lime said its service, which lets customers rent scooters scattered around cities and leave them on the sidewalk for the next person to pick up

I now look for a "Tragedy of the Common" errors in business models. That's it right there: they freely exploit a public resource without care or consequence. The fallacy is evident when we ask "What if everybody does this?"

There's an obvious outcome from that: the companies will pay a tax/fee to municipalities for the right to do that. There's no scenario where that doesn't occur universally in the future. Cities love to regulate anything and everything they can within their jurisdiction. If they charge a reasonable fee for it, it's net beneficial. There will be a lot more rules sketched out over time for this type of product.

I guess I'm not sure I understand how this relates. Everybody already does do this. You are allowed to drop your bike off at a bike rack or on the sidewalk out of the way of traffic if you're brave (or have more faith in your neighbors than I do).

> I guess I'm not sure I understand how this relates. Everybody already does do this. You are allowed to drop your bike off at a bike rack...

Scenario: go to park your personal bike at the public bike rack only you discover it's full of bikes from some company who wants to make a buck out of it.

A lot of these business models take advantage of resources that are "free" but have really cost a lot of money to set up and maintain, usually by the public.

I'm in Sydney and am now starting to see share bikes littering the landscape. One had been dumped in a public ocean bath (at Balmoral).

You'll probably saturate the market before you run out of parking. One car space converted to bike racks would hold 20 bikes and if bike share is truly that popular, it's an entirely viable option.

> One car space converted to bike racks would hold 20 bikes...

In a city CBD, what would one car space be worth? In Sydney some car parks charge $23 an hour. Should this space just be given to some bike share company that decides to set up shop?

this is basically exactly what cars and on street parking is...

street parking is often time-limited and/or costs money. I wouldn't mind the VC-backed e-scooter detritus on the sidewalk so much if they paid the city for the space they take up, much like the way a film crew pays the city for a permit to offset their disruption to the neighborhood, or the way a beach boardwalk performer pays for their space.

I read that in early June, scooter hire was halted in San Francisco and companies had to apply for licenses, which were expected to be issued by the end of the month. Any update on what is happening there?

Why doesn't Uber just provide their own scooters?

The same reason they currently don't provide their own cars.

Who here is charging for them?

Scooters: a (small) feature within a large global mobility company.

NOT a business unto itself.

same with taxi companies?

Well, I guess it's time to delete the Lime app from my phone. Good thing there are multiple competitors.

arcaster 42 days ago [flagged]

Scooters are ruining Austin.

Fuck The Scooters!

No they aren't, they're probably saving downtown Austin's transportation woes. Decades of failed resolutions by the city council to provide expanded public transportations for an extremely high growth city have brought us to this point, one where the market had to come up with a solution. I'd imagine more regulations are probably due in the near future.

The scooters definitely aren't "ruining Austin" but they're not "saving" it from transportation woes either. The percentage of drivers who live close enough to downtown to hop on a scooter instead of taking car is pretty small.

For example, only 4% of Austin commuters live within 2 miles of their workplace [0]. Commuters in Westlake and P-Ville, etc. are definitely NOT trading in their cars to get on a scooter (if you could even find one) and then riding it down the highway for 30 minutes. Especially in 100 degree heat.

[0] http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:8eBZN5u...

You don't understand marginal improvements and how they ramp up?

(marginally) improving traffic (a bit) ≠ saving us from our transportation woes

Austin still has a long, long way to go.

Well sure, but that's why I prefaced with "downtown." The five-county Greater Austin metro area has its own transportation issues that need solving as well, like much of the country.

It is typical that a market will produce a solution before a government, isn't it?

Yes, but only for people who can afford it.

There are often programs to make market goods available to those who may not be able to.

Fresh produce, for example. I haven't seen any governments producing the oldest and most critical good.

How, exactly?

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