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The Mopeds Are Coming (theatlantic.com)
84 points by panarky on Aug 14, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 242 comments

I think this is the "missing link" in the new transportation ecosystem. Right now, alternative transport exists in a sort of grey zone where if you ride on roads drivers are angry about how you're taking their space, and if you ride on sidewalks people are angry about how you're taking their space.

mopeds look enough like a motorbike and are already accepted enough that a high enough concentration of them could go a long way towards taking back the road as a true multi-use space, rather than a car exclusive space that other users sometimes get to encroach onto. mopeds and bicycles and jump scooters can all coexist in the same space happily. mopeds and cars can coexist happily.

As a visitor, I would say one under-appreciated aspect of Dutch bikes lanes is that they're not really bike lanes. Practically, 95% or more of the vehicles on there are bicycles, yeah, but the other 5% are all sorts of wonderfully wacky vehicles, some motorized (mostly electric) some not.

It seems to work like this: Are you in big, heavy and fast vehicle? Go in Road Type 1 (cars, trucks, motorcycles)

Are you vehicle-less, or is your vehicle very slow or non-motorized? Go in Road Type 2 (pedestrians, strollers, wheelchairs, etc)

Are something else? Go in Road type 3 (bicycles, mopeds, electric bikes, electric skateboards, non-car people movers etc etc).

In North America, rather than building Road Type 3, we fight viciously over how to sort a galaxy of vehicles into Road Types 1 and 2. Even when a 3rd road type is built, they are frequently designated for some exclusive type of vehicle - ie, places where non-pedelec e-bikes or electric skateboards are not allowed in bike lanes.

Having a moped race past you with 50km/h on a bike lane is a pretty terrifying experience and I'd much prefer that they use roads.

Bike lanes are too narrow for motorised vehicles, and some ebikes are pushing the limits as well (eg. Urban Arrow bikes don't make me feel very safe on narrow bike lanes either)

That's true but some motorized gadgets are pretty slow. One time, due to a stoplight, I crossed an intersection at the same time as a guy on some sort of skateboard with an engine. My acceleration on my bicycle was much better than his, and I left him far behind. Several blocks later (this was a road with few stoplights), I heard his noisy approach from behind and enjoyed his triumphant smile at having finally overtaken me. Apparently his motor had a bit more power once it got totally revved up... The point is, he was a menace to anyone on the (thankfully deserted) sidewalk, and would have been something of hazard in the street.

I would hazard that the limiting factor for the skateboarder wasn't the motor but the fact that if he accelerated as quickly as the motor would allow he'd fly off of it. Electric motors are notoriously torque-y. (which many users enjoy)

This was about 12 years ago, so it was actually a two-stroke motor. More power at full RPMs meant less torque at lower RPMs... Nevertheless policy probably shouldn't consider something so rare so this is a bit OT.

You can't really (usefully) regulate based on speed; any alternative transportation can potentially be really dang fast. I've seen motorized wheelchairs hitting 50km/h.

I think it makes the most sense to regulate based on maximum achievable momentum (maximum engine torque is used as a heuristic for this), or even maximum achievable collision force (momentum ÷ surface area of forward-travelling side) of the vehicle at any carrying capacity.

So a motorcycle is a lot more dangerous than a moped, not even because of the weight of the vehicle alone at speed, but because you can fit two people on there, the motorcycle has enough torque to get up to the same speed with those two people aboard, and so the whole vechicle-rider system will have more momentum (impart more collision force) at the same speed.

And some electric skateboards / hoverboards are also very dangerous, because if they manage to fully torque up while without a rider, they can shoot out and hit someone in the legs with a high momentum delivered across a very small front facing plane. Like a bullet!

(And, obviously, trucks are more dangerous than cars, simply because you can put a bunch of stuff in the bed and still get them up to the same speed as a car.)

Although the simple solution here is policy and divided roads, I could imagine a simple-ish technological solution: a torque governor hooked up to normal-force sensors on the suspension. So a motorcycle with one person on it would simply not be able to "work as hard" as the same motorcycle with two people on it [except when going up a hill, since normal forces would increase]; and a vehicle with no rider at all would immediately clutch to neutral and brake to bleed off the "above limit" torque.

Sensible places ban all motor vehicles from sidewalks and bike paths. They belong in the road with other low speed ICE powered scooters and mopeds.

A bike with a small electric motor is no problem in a bike path, and allows people who have mobility issues, just don't like sweating up a hill on the way to work, etc. to still cycle instead of drive.

A low powered moped doesn't belong in the road in most places.

Amsterdam's actually banning scooters from bike lanes as I understand it. [1] Which seems reasonable. When I was there recently, there were certainly some vehicles using the bike lanes that didn't seem to belong.

[1] https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/a3nng4/amsterdam-...

This will actually change, mopeds will be banned from bike paths in Amsterdam: https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2018/06/mopeds-may-be-banned-f...

Nice observation. I live in the Netherlands and the fastest growing “type 3” vehicle is not the moped but the electric bicycle. All the benefits of a bicycle with the increased range of a moped.

I agree with you about the 3 types of roads and especially that most of the USA don't build Road Type 3 enough (fully separated lanes, please!). But, which kind of vehicle goes on which road type has more to do with speed than size.

Why delegate motorcycles to the same category as cars? The lighter ones solve the horrendous density problem of cars just as well as other forms of transport, yet are also able to keep up the with regular cars on the motorway.

Because a motorcycle moving at 40+kph in what is, in effect, an extension of the sidewalk is a terrifying prospect, and a motorcycle going at 15kph just to be in the bike lane would defeat the purpose of owning a motorcycle instead of something less expensive.

Drivers and pedestrians are angry because some bikers want to be treated as cars AND ALSO sometimes pedestrians. Drivers don't want to kill anyone, and pedestrians don't want to be maimed.

Well bikers are angry because they don't want to be treated as cars OR as pedestrians, but those are the only two classifications much of the US has. Many people on a bike are unable to even maintain 25mph for a slow city road, let alone 45mph or 55mph, so treating them like cars is ridiculous. But they do commonly go over 3mph, which is the speed of your average pedestrian.

Bikers want to be treated like bikers. Unfortunately that classification doesn't really exist in the US so it becomes situational.

Is a cyclist going 15 mph in a 25 mph zone much worse than a truck going 55 mph in a 65 mph zone?

The difference is that trucks are slow and heavy, and bicycles are slow and light.

People are afraid of crashing their car into a truck. A bicycle is just a little annoyance in the road that you squeeze past as quickly as possible.

They're not at all comparable.

a 180# person and a 10# bike going 15 miles per hour slamming into a side of a car because they decided stop signs don't apply to them is more than a little annoyance.

Bikes need to realize that YES they are smaller and lighter than trucks / cars but that doesn't mean they can't cause real damage and need to obey the same rules.

Are you kidding?

If a bicycle hits a car it might scratch the paint. If a bicycle hits a truck you'd be lucky if the truck driver notices.

If the other vehicle hits the bicycle, the cyclist will be lucky to survive.

I know some cyclists take liberties on the roads. I'm sometimes a cyclist myself and I too get annoyed by cyclists. But it's a fact of physics that cyclists are much more vulnerable than any car driver.

tell that to my friend who had to get her insurance to cover body work to both the door and body panel of her car when a rider smashed in to her, got up and took off without having to have any responsibility for the damage.

lucky if they notice ... lol fuck off. I'm not saying they are the same thing, or that cars are more vulnerable -- if you inferred that from my statement then you weren't reading, I simply stated that they can and do cause damage to property and people if they hit things.

You directly implied that the difference between the damage that bicyclists and cars cause when they collide with things was small enough that bicyclists and drivers should follow exactly the same rules.

i do think they should follow the same rules if they are to occupy the same space.

I agree they should.

However if someone does not follow the rules then the fines need to be vastly greater for cars.

You don't need to be Einstein to understand: E = m/2*v^2

A good start would be to place all the burden of liability on the driver with the heavier vehicle (maybe have a 20% difference in which it is split 50:50).

The free market could then sort out insurance premiums.

I'd like to buy one of those 10 pound bikes please!

:) I purposely down scaled the weight so that someone couldn't claim i was trying to exaggerate things.

You do have a point, traffic does seem to be much more reasonable to be in and interact with the faster you go. If you can average >15mph and follow the rules of the road, most people in cars are quite pleasant in my experience. However the many people darting out on red lights and going the wrong way down the road tend to give most drivers a bad view on cyclist.

Have you tried driving a car over a long distance averaging 15mph?

Besides, that bicycle is moving at around half the street speed, while the truck is much nearer the top speed. A 40mph speed is more equivalent.

> Have you tried driving a car over a long distance averaging 15mph?

There are usually opportunities to pass cyclist that present themselves without having to travel a long distance at 15 mph. But there are many instances where one has to spend a long time driving at low speeds in a car (e.g., traffic jams).

How does any of that apply to the GP's question?

Well, one is 40% "too slow" and the other is ~15%, so yes :P

>Drivers don't want to kill anyone

this is not universally true.

in the rare case they do (i know a guy who was intentionally run down), and in the common case they just don't care, assuming that any cyclist-involved collision is the cyclists fault for being on the road. your attitude here - to immediately call out cyclists specifically, just because i dared to suggest that non-car, non-pedestrian traffic deserves a safe space to travel in - is exactly the problem. The roads are not the private domain of the automobile, and as long as people treat them like they are, some traffic will be forced to seek refuge on the sidewalk.

Well, bikers aren't allowed to be either. And that is the big issue.

I have tried biking in parts of US, and I genuinely fear for my life in some parts of the road. There is often literally no alternative but to go on the footpath and ensure I do not die.

This is in a Boston suburbs, which still have relatively OK infrastructure to accommodate bikes. I believe it would be much worse elsewhere.

How can a biker be treated exclusively as a car? E.g., what happens when the biker reaches a stop light that does not detect them? Only a pedestrian would use the walk sign.

How can they be treated exclusively as a pedestrian? Sidewalks are not designed for any user faster than about 3 mph.

Yeah, it's kind of unreasonable to expect to get away with biking on a two lane highway with no shoulder, someone will get hurt doing that.

Getting hit from behind is the least common type of collision for a cyclist. They're much more at risk of collision at intersections because of the misguided keep as far right as practicable law that's in effect in most states.

"as far right as practicable" means you can take the lane when necessary.

Most states model their traffic laws after the UVC (Uniform Vehicle Code). For the keep as far right as practicable law when traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic, the UVC lists several exceptions to that requirement.

One is the substandard width lane which is defined as a lane that's too narrow for a cyclist and motor vehicle to safely pass side-by-side within the lane [1].

Given that most surface street lane widths range from 10 to 12 feet, they're not wide enough for a motor vehicle to pass a cyclist safely while remaining in the lane. That means that, for all practical purposes, the keep as far right as practicable requirement is an exception rather than a rule.

[1] http://iamtraffic.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/UVC2000.pdf (page 168 § 11-1205-Position on roadway subsection 3)

Why is it that "someone will get hurt doing that" is acceptable when discussing a bicycle on the road doing 20mph, but no one ever seems to accidentally run into farm implements or construction equipment traveling on the road at 5mph?

1) Construction/farm equipment goes much faster than 5mph.

2) There’s very little of it, and it’s pretty much impossible to miss because it’s so big.

3) It’s usually professionally driven (YMMV).

Heavy equipment is heavy and poses a lot more risk to a car than a bicycle, so cars just plain give them more space. You can’t bully a tractor off the road with a Honda Civic like you can do to a cyclist.

Size and norms.

Big, slow things are not the same as smaller slow things.

Farming vehicles are purpose built and we have a long running understanding about farmers using roads.

These new vehicles present new problems, and or people are still thinking about it all. We have not settled into any solid norms yet.

> new vehicles

> bicycles

Scooters, bikes, are "new" in the sense of traffic norms, unlike the tractor.

They are going from marginal / casual use to daily use. Some regions are there. Many are not.

> bikes, are "new" in the sense of traffic norms

Bikes where there before paved roads existed. Cyclists where the reason we started building them in the same place.

Yes they were.

They are, despite that, "new" in the sense I put above.

Apparently, I need to expand on "norms" The thought did not come across. Next time.

I thought perhaps the username was just really literal.

I can tell that you are a bad driver. Lots of the biking I do now is in the situation you describe, and it's no problem at all for 90% of drivers. They learned to pass slower vehicles safely. You didn't, but it's not too late!

I don't think you live here then? Naer the mountains it's dangerous to take your hands off the steering wheel because there are so many curves, passing is an extremely dangerous thing to do no matter how slow the biker is going.

I'm not against biking (I say get rid of the cars and figure something else out together) but the fact is some rural areas lack the infrastructure to make it safe for bikes and cars to coexist.

I've lived in the mountains before; actually I've lived above 10,000 ft. I get your meaning on taking one's hands off the steering wheel, although I reckon lots of people would say that's always somewhat dangerous. On mountain roads, where there aren't dedicated passing lanes, generous shoulders, and long straight sections between switchbacks there are often occasional pull-offs for slower traffic. Cyclists use those, and often get off the road to let others pass even without those. Certainly that's the case everywhere I've seen in the mountains.

Although perhaps you're not really talking about mountains? Elsewhere in this thread you seem to be talking about narrow defiles through hills and curves in some impossibly remote location. If we are to take you at your word, the roads you're driving aren't actually suited to automobile travel, and certainly not to 60mph highway-attitude automobile travel.

Cars only coexist with themselves because most drivers have safe habits. Those same safe habits allow car drivers not to kill cyclists.

It is not at all unreasonable. Roads do not belong solely to cars. If you can't pass a cyclist safely, you don't pass at all.

Right and an unplanned hour long delay is reasonable?

What the hell kind of road are you on that is only two lanes but also is busy enough that you can't safely pass for an entire hour?

The kind that you shouldn’t bike on: two lane highways with lots of curves and hills and absolutely no shoulder.

These ebikes that are designed to look like motorcycles are a bane and shouldn't be allowed to be driven without a license and insurance.

In the Toronto area we often see these bombing around, riders acting like they are motorcycles but having no training or understanding of safe practices, not wearing proper safety equipment, and several of the privately owned ones have been modified to increase their speed significantly.

I have no issue with the tech, I think it could be a great green solution, but the policies and regulations around it need to get caught up before people are seriously injured.

Agreed; I have been driving for 20 years, motorcycle rider for 10 (and have owned anything from 50cc scooter which was my favourite, through 400cc supermoto to 750cc adventure/touring), enjoy bicycles - but the e-scooters / electric mopeds in Toronto, Canada are absolutely horrendous. They follow no particular rules of traffic - one second they are a vehicle occupying middle of a lane and blocking other vehicles. Next second they are a bicycle scooching to the right of the lane. Then they are pedestrian, crossing the street over a pedestrian crossing when all the rest of the traffic has come to a stop. All throughout they are drunkenly weaving in and out with no predictability or order.

They have no training, no safety equipment, no licensing, no enforcement, no accountability, and no care. In the meantime everybody else around them is trying very very very hard not to be part of a fatal accident.

So like the poster, I have no problem with technology. I have huge problems with lack of regulation and enforcement, and/or the users of such vehicles.

They are fairly explicitly advertised as tool to avoid regulation, insurance, rules and safety, for their own personal selfish convenience; and again, explicitly designed to mislead - they are designed to look like a motorized scooter [why not make them look like an eBike that they are?], but with semi-functional pedals so they can claim they are a bicycle.

Get these punks off my lawn! :-) [and let the hate and downvote begin!:]

Every single one of these complaints can and is frequently made about bicyclists as well. Maybe the problem is the increased number of people using bikes of any sort without training rather than anything specific about the fact that they're motorized.

Fair enough - there's truth in what you're saying :)

But while strictly speaking behaviour and concern overall are to your point similar; I think what additionally bothers me personally [and I recognize this is an emotional reaction] is this feeling of overt attempt to mislead.

A bicycle is a bicycle is a bicycle. They are predictably unpredictable - I understand what to expect out of them ("Anything":).

These electric scooters are intentionally made to look like a licensed motorized scooter which (in Toronto) is a vehicle like any other, licensed, insured and held accountable. Motorized scooter's behaviour is in principle predictable like any other car or motorcycle vehicle - they ride in the blocking position of lane and obey all traffic rules.

The electric scooters try to gain the veneer of respectability of motorized vehicle and look different than bicycles/e-bikes... but they do not behave like motorized scooters or motorcycles (and couldn't even if they wanted to - they cannot keep up with traffic to tide in blocking position and move with the flow).

There's a few people around me that ride them around and I feel the same way as you. I very very rarely ride my motorbike wihtout at least kevlar leggings and a kevlar jacket but I see these inexperienced riders riding through the streets and footpaths at 40km/h with a bicycle helmet on and a kid on the back, sometimes with a helmet, sometimes without.

It's dumb. It's also unfortunate that it's going to take ~10 people to die/permanent disability before anything is done about it.

I think you're right about the design of the bikes too. The ones I see are definitely designed to look and function like a moped/motorcycle.

The article says they can go 30mph. The law in most US states says that speed makes it a motorcycle. In your home province of Ontario, it also makes it a motorcycle. [1]

In California, for example, that means helmet is required and the operator must have driver's license that includes motorcycle operation. This is why most ebikes sold in the US are limited to 20mph.

So yeah, I don't get it.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws

The limit is 20mph for throttle powered electric bikes. The limit is at a higher 28mph for pedal-assist bikes.

So many ebikes, boosted boards, electric unicycle ect go over those speeds.

Cops never enforce these rules, at least not pre-accident. Pulling over a scooter, checking the license, and then checking the specifics of the vehicle, takes time. They have bigger fish to fry (speeding/parking tickets). In my area we have color-coded stickers on our license plates so that cops can see whether your insurance is still valid. It isn't a perfect system, but a special license plate for non-motorcycle things might make their job easier. Everyone without the special plate would need a motorcycle license.

What really gets me angry is dealerships selling scooters, even full motorcycles, to people without appropriate licenses. You don't need a license to own a car/truck/motorcycle, only to use it. They know what they are doing when they sell a 250cc scooter to someone without a license.

Given that you don’t need a license to own one, why would you be upset that a business sells them without checking for a license?

Because kids are buying bikes and riding them without licenses. They either get hurt or cause injury, which is a bigger financial deal given they won't have insurance coverage. During the first months of summer, cops also regularly pull over sportbikes because they know so many (most?) aren't properly licensed. Just as I would be liable for handing my keys to an unlicensed rider, businesses should not allow purchasers to drive away without a license.

IMO, the business ought to make clear “this vehicle does [or does not] require a license to operate on public roads”.

After that, they’re not cops.

I bought an airplane before I had a pilot certificate. It wasn’t illegal nor improper to sell that to me; it’s on me, not the seller, to comply with the law, IMO.

But did you climb into it on the seller's property and fly it away? They aren't cops, but they should still act like reasonable people. In most areas there is no law about selling scuba equipment. Scuba licenses aren't handed out by governments. But good luck buying regulators or getting a tank filled from a proper shop without showing some form of proof you aren't going to go kill yourself.

I've purchased scuba equipment and tank fills from dive shops all over the world and have seldom been asked for a certification card.

So have I, but we probably give the impression we know what we are talking about. Send a 16yo kid who doesn't know a thing and see if they sell to him. That happens at motorcycle shops every day.

So then they go out and get a license, and they still go get hurt or cause an injury. There's little to no real training required to get a motorcycle endorsement, or even a driver's license.

As I always bitch and moan about... it needs to be WAY harder to get a license or motorcycle endorsement in the first place. We are constantly attacking the symptoms of the problem, and never going after the actual cause of the problem.

If you are talking about Ontario still the motorcycle license takes 3 phases and ultimately years to get. Unlike a car you can ride by yourself with an M1 because its impracticable to have a licensed driver with you but it has severe restrictions (like daylight hours only).

Depends. 99+% of people seeking a motorcycle license already have a normal driver's license for cars. That's the standard system whereby they can ride alone after some preliminary test. They already know how to drive on the roads. But it is possible to start with a motorcycle without first having a car license. Such people are subject to a blended version of the graduated system for car drivers, with the addition of various motorcycle restrictions. I've seen a couple people do this (kids who buy a bike while in highschool). I would not recommend it.

If you enforce license and insurance you have two forms of motivation for the person to operate safely... first they can lose said license and cause serious hardships on themselves if that is their primary mode of transport, and if they cause damage / act reckless their insurance can increase.

I'm also very confused by your statement -- you seem to think saying that these folks getting a license is not a good idea, and then turn around and say it needs to be harder to get a license?? which is it?

>not wearing proper safety equipment,

Well, that's their problem. Also take a look at how 3 billion people ride their motorcycles and mopeds (often 3-5 at a time) in e.g. China, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc. and the complains against ebikes are absolutely nullified...

I live in China and walked by one of those e-bike food delivery guys the other day. He was casually sitting on the sidewalk with his gear halfway taken off (I guess on break). Most of the skin on the front of his knee was completely, all the way down to the muscle and kneecap, gone. Looked like it was a few days old.

If you look at the road mortality statistics for those countries you'll see that safety equipment and regulations are absolutely necessary if you want to avoid lots of pain and suffering, and externalities. It's just those places simply can't afford them and deal with it in ways more advanced economies aren't prepared to accept.

>> Well, that's their problem.

I don;t live in Cambodia. When people here get hurt in my neighborhood they block traffic, are taken to hospital and are treated by teams of government-paid professionals. Then if they have severe head injuries that medical treatment may continue for many decades. We insist on helmets, as we insist on things like brakes and seatbelts, because we know that individual injuries quickly become everyone's problem.

Take a look at the chaos in their streets and the associated fatalities.

Riding a motorbike in Vietnam is a completely different experience to riding a motorbike in a western country.

People are actually aware of motorbikes, since it's the primary method of transport. Also, traffic moves a lot slower, you're usually riding at only 20-30 km/h in town in Vietnam. I felt much safer riding a motorbike in Vietnam than in New Zealand.

Upon saying that, the road injury and fatality statistics for the countries you mentioned are shocking. Vietnam is 2.5x higher than the USA for road fatalities per 100,000 per year, and the USA itself is shockingly high for a developed country, they're double Australia's rate.

>Upon saying that, the road injury and fatality statistics for the countries you mentioned are shocking. Vietnam is 2.5x higher than the USA for road fatalities per 100,000 per year

Just 2.5x doesn't sound shocking to me -- and probably the most of the difference is not even caused by driving patterns.

E.g. the road conditions in Vietnam vs the US, and the vehicle conditions there (breaks, mechanical faults, age, etc.) compared to the US...

I wonder if the AI gang will set up labs in Asian countries. It seems to be the forefront of massive multi-agent free floating shared space mobility.. So much ML training.

I wonder if per-capita is a misleading measure here. Clearly density (i.e. people or vehicles per sq. mi ) is more predictive of your accident rates.

The standard measure is per million miles or kilometers driven.

>Well, that's their problem.

You could say the same of seatbelts, yet their use is enforced by law because automobile fatalaties were a major public health problem. Society has an interest in protecting those who don't protect themselves.

>You could say the same of seatbelts, yet their use is enforced by law because automobile fatalaties were a major public health problem.

Was it because of that, or merely because the government just likes to overreach and regulate?

It was because of that, I promise.

The "mopeds" are actually gas scooters and presumably in the USA you need a licence and training for those and they have to stay on the road.

Though personally I would prefer a proper modern Vespa

additionally/alternatively close one road after another for cars and make it exclusively pedestrian/cycling ground.

And keep everything that is not powered exclusively by muscles out of those areas.

I'm extremely excited by this type of electric scooter. If you're interested in the options currently on the market in the USA, Electrek did a recent roundup here: https://electrek.co/2018/06/07/electric-mopeds-use-is-boomin...

You can get an imported Cirkit electric moped with a top speed of 35mph and 40 mile range for $1,200. It can't totally replace a car for most Americans, but it can probably replace 80% of car travel for most commuters. You can go right around traffic, maintenance and electricity costs are a penny or two a mile and these things are fun to drive!

They're fun, but extremely dangerous and commuting regularly on one increases the odds you'll get hurt. There's some risk with bicycling too, but I think when there's an added motor it's easier to be going to fast and hit gravel without really realizing it.

I have commuted via bicycle and Vespa scooter and I feel so much safer on the Vespa. I can keep up with traffic, I have proper mirrors and signals, and I am wearing better safety gear.

In UK a moped is 50 times more dangerous per unit of distance than a car. In EU 10 times:


A lot of the statistics on The danger of mopeds/scooters/motorcycles do not differentiate between a commuter rising to work on a 200cc scooter and a bar-hopper riding home on the freeway on a litre sportbike.

In the US, anyway, half of motorcycle fatalities involve drunk riders.

> half of motorcycle fatalities involve drunk riders

Really? I did not realize this at all! I suppose this should make me feel 50% safer on the road as a non-drunk motorcyclist.

One time I was out with friends and I'd ridden my motorcycle. As an experiment, I had one beer and then rode home. Just that one beer that wouldn't have mattered at all in a car was very noticeable when riding my motorcycle, and I vowed no alcohol ever again when riding.

> I suppose this should make me feel 50% safer on the road as a non-drunk motorcyclist.

Potato paradox, you're way safer than that! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato_paradox

(assuming there's more sober riders than drunk ones, which I hope is the case)

The only appropriate ABV for two-wheeled travel is zero.

I've commuted on both and feel safer on a Vespa too, but realized that led me to more dangerous behavior. For example, taking busier roads, riding when it's dark and rainy, etc.

I used to ride motorcycles and while it's true you have more control thanks to your speed & signals, and you have better safety gear, you have to ride in traffic like a car. IMO that's a huge risk cyclists don't contend with. I don't think "oncoming car turns left into rider" happens to cyclists with nearly the same frequency as it happens motorcycles, for example.

Bicyclists deal with turning traffic running into them from all directions. Go faster than "normal" and everyone underestimates your speed and thinks they can slip in while completely disregarding your safety. A narrower profile and being outside the attention cone make bicycling in traffic much more problematic than on a motorcycle.

big difference between these and a vespa .. vespa you likely also had a license for, had insurance for, and there were likely rules about equipment (helmet for example) that you had to wear. Also like you said you could keep up with traffic and there were regulations on the mirrors etc required.

Ebikes have NONE of that.

Most Americans have to drive on a highway to get to work.

As long as they aren't highway-legal, they are a non-starter

I'm having trouble finding US-wide data for average commute distance, but Appendix B here https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Srvy_Jo... breaks it down by metro area. It seems like most people in most places commute 8 miles or less, which matches my intuition. At those distances a 35mph scooter will generally get you where you're going at least as fast as a car, unless you've got a straight shot on the freeway and there's little to no traffic.

It doesn't matter if your commute is as short as 2 miles - when one of those miles is a freeway. In a few urban areas, you can take side streets to avoid the freeway, but in much of the country, this is not an option.

For me, for example, avoiding the freeway adds 17 miles to my commute - turning it from a 10 mile one, into a 27 mile one, adding over 100 intersections to it (Compared to the 12 intersections that my regular commute has).

I'm going to have to pass on that.

For cities like Austin, a lot of businesses are on "frontage roads", like my company. So while its not a question of highway legal, these are roads with 55+ MPH speed limits and I suspect going 35 MPH will disrupt traffic enough to be dangerous.

Yep. In Atlanta pretty much every business is on a 35-45 mph road and people do not take kindly to you driving the speed limit, let alone 10mph below it. But that shouldn't even be an issue -- real, street legal mopeds have existed for years and can actually go at reasonable speeds. Not sure why anyone would buy one that's capped at such a low speed instead.

ACS survey (2012-2016) by the census puts mean commute at 26 minutes, industry-specific averages ranging from 21 minutes for military to 33 minutes for miners.

[0] https://www.census.gov/search-results.html?q=commute&page=1&...

How does it do in the snow?

As long as Americans insist on living a ridiculous distance from where they work, no solution will ever work.

I live close to work. It's 4 miles by bike. But living close to work is great until...

1. You have a 2 income household

2. Throw kids and their schools into the mix

3. One or both members of the household change jobs

All of those things happen to most families.

Now it becomes a complete toss-up, and you have to be extremely lucky if both or even one of you can work close to home, school, etc. My spouse and I are in that category, so I know it's possible, but I also know we're lucky.

Things might change if there was enough of a safety net, that it wasn't vital to cling to full time employment at all costs.

I'd move closer to the jobs if they weren't so far away from affordable housing :( I loved it when I lived .7 miles away from work.

The value equation would tip a lot more if Americans paid a fair price for automobiles. Everything, from oil, to roads, to the cars themselves, are stupidly subsidized.

Of course that would just make both houses and cars unaffordable.

I think that was the point...

(1) Drastic increases in gas and car taxes would be highly regressive, and disproportionately affect the poor.

(2) Housing prices are rising in large part due to foreign investment / money sheltering. I doubt that you could plausibly increase gas and car taxes high enough offset this, and it would be outright dystopian if you did.

It really seems like we should be able to directly tax the foreign investment in order to improve public transit... I don't have any good ideas on this however.

This is a function of US business management eschewing remote work by and large, and even further, insisting on locating most work opportunities in more prestigious, more expensive areas of metro geographies (which are already more expensive per unit area than suburban, exurban, or rural areas), than choices by employees to live "a ridiculous distance" from those opportunities. Take away the massive subsidies to the FIRE sectors, drop real estate closer to 10% of after-tax income to compensate for the US' inefficient health care system (then as we wring out those inefficiencies, rebalance the allocations back towards 20-25% of after-tax income to housing), and employees will flock towards city centers.

I've read all the calls for Americans to give up their ginormous houses and lots, etc. That is tone deaf to the dynamics of the business of residential development markets in the US, again excessively skewed by FIRE sector subsidies, with runaway municipal development fees and processes and bank financing herd trends adding unhelpful vectors. Before John and Jane Doe even pull up to the highway exit leading to the housing development, their limited choices were already baked in for them by other, far more monied and powerful actors.

Incentives matter.

Well there is a solution in some far away (mystical?) countries, which is called public (omg communist !!1!) transportation.

I also live a longish way from work (30 km) but I've got like 12 trains an hour doing this in 20 - 25 mins.

[Thats like 2.12e2 furlongs in 1.45e-2 fortnites for you non metrics.]

Great for people without kids. Unfortunately due to the untrusting and inadequate public transit network (read: no more meaningful bussing) in the US, I'll be ferrying my kids daily for another decade+, requiring a car that seats > 2.

Looks like most of that list is a non-starter due to extremely low range (yes, 40 mile sounds good in theory, until you realize these are lead-acid batteries that should not be deep discharged, realistically this is a 20-mile range)

Those scooters should come with lighter Li-Ion systems and at least a 50 mile charge.

The only thing that looks moderately attractive there is the Onyx RCR in terms of range and speed, but what's worrisome is that it doesn't seem to be built for the speeds it's advertised for. I'd be scared to go over 30mph on something that looks like that.

You can go right around traffic

Don't do that.

Most European cities where scooters (mopeds) make up a seizable portion of traffic (e.g. Paris) would come to a standstill if you "didn't do that".

The issue is more that drivers in the US aren't used to sharing the road with these vehicles.

In Paris, drivers naturally drive far left and far right on roads that have two lanes per direction to leave a corridor for the scooters in the middle.

Then 'going around traffic' is less of an issue for everyone involved.


lane spitting is mostly illegal in the us, but a legal thing in california. so here, in dead stop traffic, you in fact can do that, and it doesn't involve weaving in and out of traffic. calm down.

> Fuck your scooters

You don't own the road. It's a shared space.

My point is you can't weave in and out of traffic. Stay in your lane like everyone else. Want to use the bike lane ride a bike.

It's legal to split lane in California.

Last I heard, it was actually "not illegal" to lane split in California.

It was officially legalized in 2016 and went into affect January 2017.


There's a range of ways to do that. Weaving through flowing freeway traffic at 100mph? Pretty damn dangerous. Filtering up between lines of stopped cars at a stoplight? Not terribly dangerous & reduces traffic for everyone.

That's literally want you're officially meant to do according to the highway code in most of the world.

> according to the highway code in most of the world.

Was there some article written on this? Can I get a link?

Struggling to find anything more official, but http://www.motorcycle.com/features/where-is-it-legal-to-lane...

For example here in Spain, most stop lights in cities have special areas at the front where motorcycles are expected to filter through to, e.g. https://goo.gl/maps/JRvxvtVZ8vL2

It actually reduces one's chance of getting rear-ended when waiting in stopped traffic.

I'm in NC. It's rained almost every day the last three weeks straight and when it's not raining, it's hot and humid.

Are these things catching on in places with unpleasant summer/winter weather?

edit: I had only skimmed the article when I made the comment above. Now having read it, and as somone who used to live in Atlanta OTP and commuted to work across from Ga Tech, I share the author's skepticism these will catch on there. I similarly can't see them working in Raleigh where I live now except maybe among college students. They'd be great for getting around a college town, on and near campus.

All of Asia where it rains for much more than 3 weeks straight during the monsoon seasons.

That said it’s not clear if it will catch up in any place where these are seen as perks of convenience rather than essential transportation.

What you see in Asian cities are really light motorcycles though, right? As in, they can keep up with auto traffic. In places like KL the "scooters" (or whatever the right term is) are really something. Can't imagine driving there.

City auto traffic in the US is weirdly fast - it's 30 mph instead of 30 kmph. These devices have no trouble at 18mph but America decided it has to be faster because it built things so far away.

I don't know about the particular mopeds in the article, but for instance the Gogoro's that are used by Coup in Europe can go up to 90-95 km/h and fall into the 125cc category unless they are artificially restricted to 45 km/h (to allow for more people to be able to use their service).

Most cities in Europe have a speed limit of 50-60km/h only a handful of roads are limited to 30 and 25 km/h and those are often mixed roads or a parking lot :)

In Mexico the pizza delivery drivers all use mopeds. If it's raining heavily, no pizza for you.

This is why I wish Elio Motors [0] could actually get to market.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elio_Motors

This seemed less and less likely for a long time. Perhaps paradoxically, I'm inclined to see it as more and more likely from now on: if everything were as hopeless as it has seemed, surely there would have been massive lawsuits by now?

The article is about the expansion into Atlanta, which is a bit hotter and rainier than NC.

Thanks, I'd only skimmed. I've read it now and edited my comment. Having lived in both places, Atlanta is actually pretty similar to Raleigh weather wise.

> Then I realize how disturbing it is that these attempts at clarity would seem quaint and surprising, and how any sniff of earnestness from a tech company can feel like a sign of deceit.

This is the line that stuck out to me in the whole article. Is this really where we are? Has tech sunk that low?

Hey, maybe the users can ride them on the sidewalk, too! I've been having fun dodging the bikes and scooters (from no less than 3 companies!)!!


Seriously, my 2 mile walk to work has gone from a total joy to me looking over my shoulder to make sure I can change lanes without getting run over by a scooter/bike doing serious speed. And by change lanes I mean step around that dog turd.

Isnt it illegal in most places to ride vehicles on the sidewalk? Does it cause a lot of fights? I could imagine someone "accidentally" stretching at the right time to clothesline someone riding down the sidewalk. It's making me angry just thinking about it.

Isnt it illegal in most places to ride vehicles on the sidewalk? Does it cause a lot of fights?

Two days ago I said these words to a cyclist on the sidewalk coming toward me: please don't ride on the sidewalk. His reaction was to park his bike and walk toward me flipping the bird and yelling at me to "shut the fuck up"... I've never been in a fight over this, but too often this is the result.

And lest you think I yelled those introductory words, I said them in the most pleading way I could muster.

It is illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk where I live. That doesn't stop the dozens of people I see each day.

And this fun thing happened last night when I left my building (a very busy street): 2 cyclists coming through the intersection and one cyclist wanted to get around the other, so at the intersection he whipped onto the sidewalk, at about 20 mph, and rode between the people walking there. Had I exited my building seconds earlier I could have been serious injured by stepping into his path.

> I could imagine someone "accidentally" stretching at the right time to clothesline someone riding down the sidewalk.

What you're describing here is aggravated assault, which is a serious crime.

chill - I don't think the GP actually suggesting we form vigilante squads to hunt down sidewalk-riding vesparados (see what I did there?)

Are these intuitive to ride? I can ride a bike and a scooter but I’m not sure I want the first time I ride one of these to be in the Midtown Atlanta Traffic Thunderdome.

I sold my car but if I still had one I don’t think I’d be very uh, charitable to someone topping out at 25mph on Ponce.

I’m not sure I want the first time I ride one of these to be in the Midtown Atlanta Traffic Thunderdome.

The first time you operate anything, it should not be in crazy traffic. Nothing is that intuitive. But I think even the article is clear that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. If you need to blast down I-75 to get downtown, prooobbbbbably not a good choice.

Yeah, the first time I ever drove solo was at night, in pouring rain, during rush hour, on the Autobahn. (This was Germany, having learned to drive in the UK.)

Oddly enough, I never really warmed to driving...

> I sold my car but if I still had one I don’t think I’d be very uh, charitable to someone topping out at 25mph on Ponce.

In which case you probably need to practice patience. There are already plenty of cyclists on Ponce and similar streets of Atlanta who top out at 15mph. They have as much right to be there as motorists, and while you might be annoyed that you’re running late because you didn’t plan accordingly for traffic, they are too often stuck and seriously injured or killed because of aggressive drivers.

Ponce? I assumed it was a brand and searched for "ponce bike" and "ponce electric scooter" but didn't get anything other than general bikes and scooters.

Ponce de Leon is a big street in Atlanta that's ground zero for testing the scooter/moped market.

Atlanta has historically been a 'need a car' city but these forms of transport have the potential to change that.

After spending a lot of time in various cities in Europe... anything that fixes the sound pollution created by 2-stroke engines in scooters and mopeds is a massive improvement.

These aren't mopeds to me. They don't have pedals.

In Ohio, a moped must have pedals and are governed under special laws distinct from scooters and motorcycles.

Either 2 wheels or 3 wheels (1 front and 2 rear). The vehicle must be capable of being pedaled as well as carrying a helper motor, which cannot: ―Have a piston displacement larger than 50 cc. ―Be capable of producing more than 1 HP. ―Obtain a maximum speed greater than 20 MPH on a level surface.

> Either 2 wheels or 3 wheels (1 front and 2 rear).

this is backwards thinking, two wheel in front is the safer design. decelerating shifts center of gravity forward. turning shifts it to the side . having a wheel there to support it lets you slow down going into a corner (as I am want to do)

That entire law only exists to serve as a incentive not to use anything bigger than a bike but smaller than a full blown motorcycle.

I think these should be called scooters. Unfortunately, English also uses that word for kick scooters, and now the two are hopelessly confused.

The terminology is a complete muddle in English. Even reading through that article I had to go back and forth a bit to understand what was being discussed in a given paragraph.

If you just say scooter these days, there are about four different things you could be referring to.

The term is "motor scooter". Just like a motorcycle is a bicycle with an engine, these are scooters with motors.

A moped does have to have pedals and there are some companies making them. But the entire thing is an anachronistic shell game. These are all motorcycles, just of lesser power/ability. They only exist because of silly legal classifications that mean little on a modern street. Everyone on the street riding something with two wheels and a motor should get a motorcycle license, a helmet, and be subject to proper emission controls.

Except this is actually electric. (Which in fact does mean it has a motor although, to add to the confusion, motor is often used to mean engine :-) ) As a result, by analogy with motorcycle, I would assume a motor scooter had a gasoline engine.

how about "electro scooter"?

for all practical purposes, actual mopeds with pedals don't exist in north america, so using moped as a short word for a sit-down motor scooter is pretty unambigious.

not sure if pedal-mopeds have similarly fallen out of favour in the rest of the world?

I've been in your camp before, but generally mopeds are legally defined by maximum engine displacement (usually 50cc, though not sure how that works with electric motors) and speed (50km).

They've taken to calling them e-bikes here regardless of what form-factor they take, be it electric-augmented bike or Vespa style scooter.

In FL, a moped also has pedals and low power and does not need a tag/registration, nor a drivers license.

I’ve seen normal street bicycles retrofitted gas engines, ala early 1900’s motorcycles.

I have the understanding that aside from cost, people without a license due to DUI ride these since they can’t legally drive.

A "moped" has pedals. These are not mopeds...

Yes, technically they are scooters, it seems the terms are frequently used incorrectly. Although, since the pedals really don't contribute much useful power on a moped it doesn't really matter.

If Mopeds or bicyclists or the like want to be on the road - that's fine. Get a Bike license and Insurance.

A few weeks ago, a bicyclist clipped my bumper at a red light. I made sure it was safe, pulled over, put on my hazards, and got out. In that time, he had the audacity to claim that

1. I was at fault (I was not - I've got front & rear dashcam footage provided to the police & insurance as replacing the bumper is easily $2k for me).

2. When I told him about the dashcam, he then claimed we could split it 50/50 (while also claiming it's not more than $300 worth of damage if I took it to a shop that he said he'd "hook me up with" - which it's not. It's a brand new car and I'll take it to a dealership thank you very much.)

3. Claimed he was broke and could not afford to pay me $2k and since I worked downtown, I could "afford to eat the cost and not feel the difference" - like that mattered.

4. When I did call the cops, he decided to just take his bike and ride off.

I'm (honestly just a little) surprised there's no mention of Scoobi, who just launched in Pittsburgh. [0] Other than an opening weekend issue involving a few friends "terrorizing" them [1] they seem to be successful. I've seen several folks riding on them, many parked (legally, thanks to an agreement with the city), and none the worse for wear.

Personally, I'm going to try one, on a weekend, before I brave the jagoffs of rush hour.

0. https://triblive.com/local/allegheny/13898057-74/scoobi-laun...

1. https://theincline.com/2018/08/03/how-a-group-of-friends-ter...

This would be great if it weren't another ploy to hack the legal system through a moped-sized. Rent the same 125cc scooters that they already rent in Italy (a displacement size that can easily keep up with city traffic), require that users be licensed (and help them get licensed), and insure them.

Instead, they're just going to look at the laws of each state and figure out the maximum speed and displacement they can offer to people without them having to be licensed or to have ever been on a scooter before, and whether if they duck tape some pedals to it they can get away with more. And what city/state official(s) they have to bribe to get those laws changed or to keep them unchanged after people end up severely brain injured and dead.

I don't care how it happens, but the day petrol mopeds are completely phased out will be a very happy one for me. Being woken up by a loud scooter deliverying pizza late at night is a continual annoyance. Electric mopeds presumably make little to no sound.

You may not get your wish. My personal most-hated source of urban noise is unmuffled motorcycles that can be heard for miles, but it turns out these exist on purpose: ICE bikes with stock mufflers have a reasonable noise level, but bikers take them off they think it makes them safer ("loud pipes save lives"). It might turn out that we have the technology to make personal vehicles whisper quiet, but then people refuse to use it.

When the majority of vehicles are electric, I can see the case being made for all vehicles to have noise-emission limits. Noise pollution is a serious health issue in cities, and could be a new target once emissions pollution is largely taken care of.

I can see the case being made for all vehicles to have noise-emission limits.

Oh, did you think those loud-ass Harleys and wannabes have legal exhaust systems on their bikes? They do not. But the laws are so rarely enforced that we might as well not have them. My old Honda, and I'm pretty sure the current BMW, have a stamp in the metal on the muffler with words to the effect of "meets EPA noise standards of 84db", or summat.

I don't know why it's not enforced, either. Seems like easy money on the part of the municipalities.

My understanding (from a friend who was a cop, this was in NYC but it's probably similar elsewhere) is that what happens is:

1. Motorcycle makes a ton of noise because muffler is removed / modified

2. Cop pulls over motorcycle, gives them a citation which requires them to go to a testing center to have the loudness measured

3. Motorcycle owner reinstalls stock muffler

4. Motorcycle owner goes to testing center and passes test with stock system, and thus doesn't get a ticket

5. Motorcycle owner removes stock muffler

6. Goto 1

He said that no one ever pulls motorcycles over for being too loud because they know this is what happens, and all it's going to be is a lot of paperwork with no actual punishment for the rider. Cops would have to carry noise meters for them to be able to give the ticket in-person.

Cops would have to carry noise meters for them to be able to give the ticket in-person.

I would happily buy them with money from my own pocket. Absolutely serious, send me an invoice. Yeah, Redmond didn't take me up on it, either.

The fact that it is universally not enforced tells me my simple solutions were obviously missing something. OTOH, if you replace the headlamps in your car, they're supposed to have a DOT stamp on them somewhere (granted, I've never even heard of that being enforced). Given that my stock mufflers have stamps referencing the EPA, seems to me we could do the same as headlights. Roar past a cop, cop looks for stamp, no stamp: here's your ticket. We already regulate car exhaust systems, I have no problem with it for bikes. And unlike a loud Civic, you can visually inspect the system with little effort.

But what it really boils down to is that no one is riding an open-pipe Harley past a Senator's house at 2:00 a. m. Because no one but the cretins that ride them likes the sound of a loud bike.

I don't understand your last sentence. Cops don't like doing their job? Cops don't like carrying the equipment needed to do their job?

Step 6 goes to 1, at which point a 2nd ticket is issued. Repeat a 3rd time, now you add points to the license or suspend it, whatever.

I don't see a difference between policing excessive noise and excessive speed. The same tools are present and available.

These aren't "tickets" in the normal sense where a fine is issued, they are "fix it" tickets where the owner has x days to remedy the defect.

The only cost to the biker is time/money to swap the mufflers and the finding a cop to show the "repaired" muffler to.

Sound meters are a lot cheaper than radar/laser speed guns too

They should just take a picture of the muffler and make the testing center verify that they are testing the noise level with the same muffler that was being used.

Do cops require people to go to a testing center when they cite then for a broken taillight, or a DUI?

Why are motorcyclists handled with kid gloves, here?

Do cops require people to go to a testing center when they cite then for a broken taillight

No, because determining whether or not a taillight is broken is objective: is the bulb lit, or not? How good are you at determining what 84db sounds like? "Well, it sounded like 86db to me. The fact that the driver was black is merely coincidence."

Do cops require people to go to a testing center when they cite then for...a DUI?

Umm, yes?

Another thought that occurred to me is that those loud pipes very likely have a "for off-road use only" somewhere on them. No testing necessary.

> Umm, yes?

No. You don't need to get sent to a blood lab to be charged for, and convicted of a DUI. A roadside sobriety test of dubious accuracy, with a narrative report that may be full of half-truths and flat-out lies is sufficient evidence.

Before portable breathalyzers became as common as they are today, failing to walk the line and touch your nose was sufficient to convict someone.

That's the bar for convicting someone of a serious crime. Surely, we don't need to jump through all these hoops to ticket someone for a loud bike exhaust.

Is the testing center free?

If your city ever hosts a ciclovia, go to one and just sit outside on the route and eat lunch or have a drink. The difference in noise compared to a regular day with ICE traffic driving by is remarkable.

Somehow affixing large speakers to your tiny moped to make vrooming sounds, seems like a rather niche outcome.

Chopping off the exhaust pipe for "moah powah!" fits much better into human behavior.

Would love a scooter, but it's just not practical when there's snow on the ground.

It would be interesting to greenfield design transportation.

Cars are very well executed machines, but I've always wondered what alternatives could happen if there wasn't the weight of backwards compatibility.

Re: backwards compatibility - Kevin Kelly writes in _What Technology Wants_[0] that Romans impacted the space shuttle - Roman roads were the model for most European roads, and were themselves based on the width of two horses walking next to each other, per "lane" (main use case of the time). Europeans brought this notion of roads with them to the US and built similar roads. Early cars had to fit on these roads, and early car roads were built on top of these horse roads. Eventually, when the space shuttle was designed, shipping its parts from factories across the company (on roads) had to be factored in. Therefore there were size/shape constraints on the shuttle that have their origins in Roman horse drawn carts.

(I'm recalling from memory, Kelly's explanation was probably better. Not something I've researched beyond finding that anecdote interesting.)

0. https://www.amazon.com/What-Technology-Wants-Kevin-Kelly/dp/...

Space Shuttle parts manufacturing was distributed around the country for political reasons to ensure continued support from Congress. It would have been safer and cheaper to manufacture all of the large components close to the launch site, or at least at sites reachable by barges. The Challenger disaster was caused by a booster o-ring failure but there was no technical need to build the boosters in pieces joined by O-rings; they could have been assembled as a single large unit.

This has been attempted in a few places. Curitiba, Brazil comes to mind.

If by "greenfield" you mean "eliminate all roads", then I think you'll find yourself adding them back in at some point. I've been involved in a few of those design brainstorming sessions around urban transportation and every time it comes down to emergency services. If you need to get somebody across a city as fast as possible in a situation where seconds can mean the difference between life and death, then you need roads and cars.

Not eliminate roads. If anything actively acknowledge their utility and work to specialize/classify them for discrete applications. Right now mopeds and 18-wheelers share the same space. Commuters and emergency vehicles. Bus stops overlap bike lanes. Professional commercial drivers share the road with barely trained drivers who passed a test.

A greenfield design would be something like this:

Make access/collector roads slower.

Personal vehicles smaller/lighter more like golf carts and e-bikes. Limited to 25mph. For use on neighborhood access and collector roads. The lower speeds and lighter weights allow these vehicles to shed a lot of complexity/cost. Licensing can remain easy, and insurance costs are reduced. Parking requirements are reduced.

Make arterials and highways larger/faster.

Service vehicles, freight and public transportation could be less constrained by lane sizes. Your 'bus' is now two lanes wide and can carry the smaller personal vehicles as cargo (like ferry service on land). The bus has fewer stops because it can expect passengers to travel further under their own power, rather than stop every block. Arterials/highways are for 'professional' uses. Freight, Emergency Services, Public transit. Licensing requirements are more strict etc...

Cars kill over a million people around the world every year. Well executed indeed.

Mopeds are so cheap and fuel efficient already that it is difficult for me to buy into electric rentals really taking off in this area.

A brand new Wolf 49cc is under $1000 and gets 100mpg.

Are you in an area where storage is no problem for most people? Because most people living in NYC likely don’t have a place they could store their own moped. Parking is scarce and expensive, and they’re not as easy to stow indoors as bikes.

Part of the reason scooters are so popular in countries like Spain is that you can park them on any pavement. Technically the pavement has to be wider than 3m, but as long as it's not in the way it's fine. Mine has been parked, along with many others, on the corner of my street for 3 years in a central area of Madrid without issue.

Personal storage for something like a moped isn't a problem for most people in my area, but public parking is a problem and mopeds definitely help with that here.

There is some designated motorcycle/moped parking in the area, when that's not available you will see mopeds triple, or even quadruple parked in a normal car space.

Razor style electric scooters you can easily carry are $200-300.

Do you mean geographical your geographical area?

I'm not sure either way if they will take off, but a huge use case near me seems to be people who are in an area far away from where they live that would be conducive to a scooter/moped/etc. For example, people coming into down from the 'burbs, tourists, etc.

Not under $1000, just over ... from the Wolf website: "Starting at just $1,099!" And that's without tax.

That's MSRP; they regularly run sales on the Wolf RX50 for $995. After tax it ends up being just over a $1000. I think I paid less than $1100 all in on my 2018 RX50 including tax, title, and registration.

But the Wolf isn't the cheapest 50cc on the market anyway. You can find a TaoTao under $1000 any day of the week, but realistically you should be able to pick it up on sale around $800 before tax/title/registrations.

How noisy is it? Some of these two-strokes are deafening.

I have the Wolf RX50 and I don't think it's too loud. Nowhere near as loud as a motorcycle. As far as mopeds/motorcycles are concerned though, having a near silent one (like you get with an electric) can put you at more risk. You are already less visible to cars, so a bit of noise helps other drivers to realize you are there.

There's a "bit of noise" and then there's the relentless, unbelievably permeating buzzing you get in some cities full of these mopeds.

It doesn't matter if you're on a gigantic Honda Goldwing, you're invisible if you're on a two wheeled vehicle. Drivers are idiots.

I see some regulation related comments in the mix - here's a pretty nice chart summarizing the situation in oregon:


my guess is the muving scooter would fall under "moped rules" due to 30 mph and no pedals.

Are there any models which are not ridiculously tiny for tall people?

I'm not sure about other states, but in CA you still need a special license, the same as a motorcycle, to ride a moped. I'm sure this would be the biggest blocker.

There is already a company operating for years in San Francisco, Scoot, which I believe does M2-class electric scooters and doesn't require M class licenses. (From my memory of their FAQs, I think California law allows you to ride M2-class vehicles with a class C, subject to some constraints.) They go to about 30 mph.

In California it's actually based on how powerful the scooter is. Under 150cc doesn't require a motorcycle endorsement.



For electric mopeds, it's based on horsepower, not engine size.

I don't think this is correct. According to that link:

A motor-driven cycle has 149cc or less engine size. CVC §405 A motor-driven cycle has to be registered and the driver must have a motorcycle license (M1).

That page indicates that you do need an M1 for motor driven cycles(less than 150cc), and an M1 or M2 for Mopeds(which is news to me).

I don't know how it applies to electric bikes, but in most states you're ok if the engine is < 50cc.

Can you get nice downsized engines for these? I.e., with a turbo, direct injection and such?

The electric moped companies like Scoot are somehow getting around this. They must cap top speed at 20mph so that a license is not required.

They do recommend an in-person training course, but you can also simply watch a series of videos on their app, no special license required.

30mph. And they recently lobbied the state to increase the horsepower limit from 2 to 4.


They should rather keep the speed and abolish or sufficiently increase the power, as to keep the speed when going uphill.

Tell me about it. I was a scoot customer back when their scooters only had 2hp. I was routinely passed by cyclists when going up even a modest hill in SF.

Are they super heavy? 2hp is 1500 watts, way more than most cyclists can put out (few hundred watts).

Yes. Scoot uses a vespa style electrical "motor scooter", not an e-bike. I would not be able to carry it up my porch stairs and into my apartment. :)

In GA, as long as the engine size is less than 50cc, then you don't need a license plate or a special license.

But you can't drive it on the interstate and most major highways, for obvious reasons.

I'm surprised we're only talking about mopeds & scooters- have we skipped right past electric bicycles?

They want to be skipped... they're all trying to pretend that they're just bicycles. b^)

Nope, this will never catch on anywhere that experiences winter. You can't ride a two wheel vehicle on icy roads and it takes a ridiculous amount of clothing to keep warm. If I have to buy a car for winter to accommodate my scooter lifestyle, then I might as well just stick with the car.

You can't ride a two wheel vehicle on icy roads and it takes a ridiculous amount of clothing to keep warm.

I'd estimate that when I lived in Indiana, I got the motorcycle out at least once a week in winter. Wait for the snowplows, let the cars dry things out, sorted. One of the more motorcycle-crazy towns I know is...wait for it...Minneapolis. So your hard-core nut jobs will ride regardless.

But let's talk about real people with real levels of sanity. So their scooter business dips for three months out of the year. No way their business plan could have accounted for that.

it takes a ridiculous amount of clothing to keep warm

It takes an electric vest that pulls 50W. With a jacket on top, that keeps me warm to the 30s at 70mph. A speed-limited scooter could get by with much less. Being battery-powered, there are limits to what one could attach to these scooters, but even electric hand grips will take a surprising amount of chill off. And electrically-heated seats are not unheard of.

But enough apologetics, let's get to the "so what?". Fine, these companies don't go where a flake of snow ever falls. That only leaves us with congested cities such as Houston, San Diego, Seattle, SF...

> Wait for the snowplows, let the cars dry things out

This could take 2+ days, how will I get to work on those days?

> electrically heat everything on the scooter

So I basically need a car that isn't a car at this point, ok!

I'm not saying scooters aren't a viable business, they definitely are, and there are companies who make money selling scooters here in Canada. But they will never be more than a fun summer toy for the upper-middle class.

Fat (pedal) bikes with big enough tires can ride on most winter terrain. And the warm clothing is not much an issue when you're pedaling hard and not moving very fast, since snow can be tough to plow through. Most of the time you need to focus on keeping your hands warm, preventing sweating, and staying dry from slush.

I bought a 29+ bike for winter riding, with my 3" tubeless tires inflated to 5-10 PSI, I have a ton of grip. I've pedaled up hills with ease, passing cars are spinning their tires. Granted, I have much better bike control than most people (if I do say so myself), but with a fat bike, riding in the winter is actually doable.

That is more effort and complexity than 99.9% of winter commuters will ever put into getting to work when they can drive or take transit. Not to say that it isn't fun/exciting but with bike lanes unplowed or worse plowed with extra snow from the car lanes and drivers who have no idea how to drive in snow it doesn't seem fun.

Oh yeah, I definitely don’t think most people could or would want to do this. Also, I pretty much never ride in the road when there’s more than a dusting or ice on the ground. I can’t take the risk of falling and having a car not be able to stop in time.

There is even a sport for it: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_speedway

(The civilian winter tires have smaller studs of course)

I live in Madison WI. Scooters are quite popular here. People adjust their habits around the seasons. I throw studded tires on my bike and ride through the winter. I have to own that clothing, or I can't go outside at all.

And the lack of outdoor activity isn't limited to the hard winter states. When I lived in Texas, I was often the only person outdoors during the summer.

$1200 for a (nice) scooter that you can drive maybe 9/12 months. $3500 for an (ok) car that you can drive 12/12 months.

For those on a budget/single vehicle household the answer is clear. However as a second vehicle, or third it could make more sense.

I'm not sure if the answer is clear, it's not to me. I'd guess you mean the car, but $1300 aint peanuts and IME (in the UK) it's things like the road tax (yearly fixed cost), upkeep and petrol that's going to matter in that assessment. I remember first filling up my scooter (a Piaggio Skipper, I got rid of over a decade ago): at the time my tank of fuel in previous car was £30, the scooter was £3.50. A little less range but it did 3 times the mileage and could do 65mph.

We scooted for a couple of years, used public transport or hired cars when needed. Only had to ride in snow a few times though.

That site's broke. Just get message "Looks like you are offline"

I have a mental block between a moped vs a motorcycle. I’d be happy to ride a compact electric motorcycle (like the old Japanese standards), but I associate mopeds too directly with college students - more specifically, college athletes - to take them seriously as a daily ride.

Just watch the classic film “Roman Holiday” and you will associate scooters with gorgeous people.

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