Electric scooters are expensive, repair and charging is expensive. It’s a seasonal business. Vandalism/abuse is fairly common.
In terms of any environmental benefit, I highly suspect more gasoline is being consumed to collect and distribute scooters than the offset of a few last mile transports.
I suspect the cost to the consumer would have to double for it to maintain any profitability, and the demand already sucks.
Why did the VCs value these as billion dollar companies? Desperation?
unforeseen is the army of charging slaves that patrol the city at 4 AM for a few extra dollars at their own expense. E-scooters launched through shop windows and into streets after bars close. The Litigation prompted from both governments endless frustration with this new corporate detritus littering the public sidewalk, and citizens facing ugly medical expenses after the sobering reality that cars in the United States are still far more prevalent, careless, and lethal than any chinese internet scooter.
If people want to eat and make rent, they need to afford it somehow, and the employment options are bleak (see: charging scooters).
So maybe you meant they have "the free will to decide if they want to work shitty jobs, or not live". We can't be too surprised that the suicide rate is going up in this country.
Taking someone to task over the technically incorrect use of the word slavery seems a bit pedantic at best.
The for-hire e-scooter market continues to seem to me like a novelty more than a realistic transportation option. My city's recent e-scooter pilot program hasn't done much to dispel that notion. People used them quite a bit in the first few weeks, but, by the end, most the scooters were obviously going all day without being used.
Also, the whole "last mile" argument started seeming a lot more hollow once I realized that, by the time I got to the busy areas where e-scooters were being placed in the mornings, I was already 75% of the way to the train station. More like "last block". And, at least when they were being used, I'd have to walk well out of my way to find one to use on the way home, too, because they were scattered all over the neighborhood as a result of their normal and intended usage pattern. So, they didn't seem to be much of an effort saver going in either direction.
All that said, I'm guessing that they were being highly valued because of the very low barrier to entry for the market. A fleet of e-scooters is presumably quite a bit less expensive to purchase and maintain than a fleet of docked rental bikes. What got lost in the shuffle was the fact that the dock, while it might seem like an unnecessary annoyance, is actually a big part of what makes those rental bikes pleasant to use.
By contrast, at least in the early stages, rideshare was almost invisible to anyone who wasn't actively using it. That left a much longer runway for the "break rules and then get forgiveness" strategy.
As it is though, my bike isn't even safe chained up in a locked garage.
And one place that people land after they fall through the cracks of society is petty theft. In the US, we just have bigger cracks than many other wealthy developed countries. I don't like the theft anymore than anyone else, but I'd rather we not fix it by further criminalizing people through an even harsher police state than we already have, and becoming like even more authoritarian countries.
It's funny that we constantly ask this (very fair) question about common theft, but don't as often express such incredulity at the existence of extreme wealth. These two are connected in many ways.
If you stole 10 dollars from a bank, you can bet you are prosecuted. Bikes are just not defended as private property for some reason.
It is much harder to prove that a thief is responsible for 1000 individual bike thefts, because you’d need evidence for each bike.
You can steal a car priced lower than a bike and get a year in jail. ITs not about the cost of proving anything, it's about the willingness of the institution to enforce it.
bikes are a particularly easy target. most people seem to use those U-locks that can only go through the frame and one wheel at most. the thief then pops off the other wheel and either pawns it or sells it for scrap. even if you secure the frame and both wheels, people will still strip the shifters and brakes off of it. people can also just cut the lock itself if they bring the appropriate equipment.
finally, nice bikes tend to really stick out. if you lock your $1000 schwinn alongside a bunch of shitty bikes, the thief will go for your bike every time.
- Bikes are high value but not extremely so, unlike a car, and most police forces do not take bike theft seriously
- Walking around with a stolen bike is a lot less conspicuous than walking around with, say, a stolen TV
And it's amazing how strong a theft deterrent crap like stickers can be - it takes 5 seconds with a dremel for a bike thief to grind the serial numbers off a frame so it can't be traced, but the time it takes to scrub stickers off a frame to get it in resellable condition, divided by a cheap frame's resale value, easily works out to an even lower wage than driving for Uber.
Anecdotally, I make my bike up to look like bits are held on with duct tape (they aren't), and in 25 years I've never had a bike stolen. My theory is that thieves aren't looking close enough to figure out that it isn't actually a hoopty bike.
If it's close to 5km, are you really going to take the kids on scooters?
If it's closer to 1km, how about simply walking? Reality check: we have two (of three) kids in school, their walk to school is just over half a mile, they both walk more or less every single day, in summer and winter and in the rain and the snow.
Oddly they really like walking to school in the snow :)
Plenty of places have undocked bicycles, so a fair comparison is possible.
They certainly do: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-J_4_SQmUNQo/Wuwwsp5w6BI/A...
They're a fun novelty, but not a solution to public transit.
About a year ago ebikes were around in Beijing but not many of them. While I enjoyed riding them (beats traffic here over low single digit KM range and faster than a bike) it was frustrating to have to hunt for them. So while I opportunistically used them when convenient it wasn’t frequent.
Fast forward to now, there are enough of them around that I can pretty much always find one on the current block. Now I use them as my primary mode of transportation ever short distances.
This isn’t necessarily applicable to a rental market, but as far as personal ownership the e-scooter is just vastly more convenient in a major city with high rates of bicycle theft.
Chamath Palihapitiya describes this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVVsdlHslfI
That's my guess. 10+ years of very low interest rates and wealthy people having more and more free cash seems to have led to a lot of crazy valuations in tech investing and elsewhere.
> I'm just waiting for this HUGE bubble to explode.
Wait till you calculate how much money is necessary to push US bonds into negative territory. Ka-CHING long 10 yr bond futures, leverage uuuuup if you think the first you said is actually going to happen, because that means bubble doesn't explode
I could see scooters completely wiping out local ride-share, taxi, and bicycle shares in many places.
But again, people have been injured and because of that, along with the excessive inventory that has littered some areas, cities are cracking down and writing new regulation to curb their use. In the short term they will win and we might not enjoy their full potential for awhile.
I've got "disruptive," "obvious," the free space in the middle, "synergy" (which I'm counting combination of technologies for), and "ride-share".
Mostly because people behaving like idiots riding scooters on the sidewalks leading to at least two serious accidents per day. Bicycles are still allowed.
Lessons learned : The urban infrastructure needs to have space for the eScooters to co-exist with other participants (cars and pedestrians alike)
I see a ton more scooters on the sidewalk than I see people riding them. From my perspective these scooter companies have greatly overestimated the demand.
That said, I'm not sure how sustainable their business model will be because riding Lime and Neuron (a Singaporean competitor that we have operating in some Australian cities) is probably leaning me more towards wanting to get my own e-scooter than regularly hiring theirs...
I get that it feels like a 2-dollar-Harley, and once parents realize that their kids are both at risk AND it costs as much as an Uber, I expect loses to grow.
Unless something drastic happens and the cost drops dramatically.
There's always the promise of we will get to free cash flow positive and net profitability in the future to stave off concerns immediately especially when revenue growth is high.
The problem for Lime and other scooter companies is that they grossly underestimated the amount of issues they would run into from operating and servicing them. So they began to see those ill effects in the first 12 months of bringing them on to the streets.
Of course massive revenue growth and promises to fix that allows new investors to plow money in, but now as the scooters become ubiquitous in many large metro areas, the revenue growth is harder to get and an increase in competition also slows down revenue growth.
With growth slowing, now they need to immediately focus on improving their unit economics where ever possible. Getting out of failed cities, reducing staff where they over hired planning for the future. Also at a company of their size firing 100 people is the equivalent of getting rid of poor performers and not that big of an issue.
This is all done to show how they can be unit economic profitable in a single large city, and then use that combined with revenue growth to raise a new round.
But if you look at the landscape of Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Postmates, Instacart, everyone is no where close to profitable, so definitely that story arc of continuing to grow without profitability is taking a large hit. More layoffs will definitely follow across the board in this sector.
I agree, however, it's obscured by an Uber-style gig: a lot of these startups incentivize random people to drive around, collect & charge their scooters. That allows them to set the financial cost of charging and ignore the underlying environmental cost.
I suspect it's one way they hide the maintenance costs while pretending to contribute to the "gig economy".
2. Easy Access to Capital in last decade
3. Winner takes it all culture, which causes more FOMO
But then as a VC you also have to bet future with incomplete set of data... which is not truly a science... though there are some Midas in VC... reality/statistics is only 3-5% of all investment will hit home run, 5-15% will do average and other will just fail... we would not have many of the company/services around if someone would not have taken those bets (from UBER to AirBnB and others...)
In my neck of woods escooter rentals are 10+ Euros an hour.
So 500 Euros for scooter / 10 => 50 hours to break even
Then you say okay maybe only 1 percent utilization => 5000 hours which is still ~6 months (we are talking napkin math).
This makes for a great elevator pitch.
Only later do you start worrying about vandalism, logistics/costs of gathering scooters every night etc.
Because VCs get paid from selling the shares to the public. So as long as a general unsophisticated investor is expected to buy in, it's a good deal for a VC, even if the underlying business model is laughable.
And while not fully diligent on this, isn't Uber still not profitable on a unit economic basis? And they are mature and public. Perhaps that statement isn't true but it provides one justification for investing in scooters
To be honest I think there's a possible real business here, but maybe only for one or two companies, and only in cities where they achieve a critical mass. The 4am collecting of abandoned scooters, becomes much more efficient if it's only one company per town, and they are commonly used such that there is much less distance between scooters of a given company.
I suppose that, like for every 1000 1999 e-business there was only one Amazon, the VC's are thinking there will be one or two survivors here who will eventually do well.
And Uber is fundamentally different. It’s not seasonal, and the costs fall mainly on drivers rather than the company.
Investors are hopeful on Uber, but I bet if a scooter company tried to go public right now, it would get eaten alive.
Uber still has money to burn and is trying to grow even more. They could likely be profitable if they wanted, pretty quickly, by limiting spending/expansion.
> In terms of any environmental benefit, I highly suspect more gasoline is being consumed to collect and distribute scooters than the offset of a few last mile transports.
The report I read stated that if longevity could be extended (which is already being worked on, per above), scooters would be net-negative CO2 wise. However right now, they are net-positive. You are correct that moving the scooters around incurs a carbon hit, but also power generation is dirty, as is producing a scooter that only last for a few months.
To answer your question: high prices/margins.
In every case, the owner had a change of heart and switched to a scooter. Why? Because the ebike is huge and heavy, needs dedicated locking, parking etc. Often there isn't room for it on the bus/train. They all found the scooter way better for last mile style commutes.
Scooters are a fraction of the cost, capable of similar speed and range with less user effort and have virtually no maintenance. You can carry them easily into an office, and they weigh a fraction of a typical ebike. They fit much more easily into trains and buses. Long term, I think last mile commuting will surely be won by a scooter style machine.
I still think ebikes have a huge role to play in future of transport, but I don't think it will be last mile commutes as much as some expect.
Minneapolis's had been a local non-profit that decided they needed to move from only docked bikes to dockless and couldn't do it as an independent group.
I've read that next season in Minneapolis the dockless bikes won't be back, and instead they will massively expand e-bikes, which were only available in a few locations this past season.
I suspect if you price in other externalities it would be even worse. Those things are flimsy trash that are meant to be utterly disposable. You can barely service or replace something as simple as a broken wheel. If these things ever did actually take off it would have been an ecological catastrophe. For all the waste generated by things like Keuregs, at least they're not going to leach heavy metals into the landfills.
It's probably more niche than these companies hoped for, but I think a profitable business can be made from it.
Whatever happens electric scooters are here to stay. They will be the future of urban last mile transportation.
Can a eScooter business be run in a profitable way? I think yes.
Are these companies going to ever make back money for their investors? Probably not.
> Electric scooters are expensive, repair and charging is expensive
The retail price for these Scooters is $400-800, depending on the exact hardware. I assume these companies are not paying retail prices but have a sweet deal with some Chinese manufacturer, maybe paying $500-ish for a mid-tier model. Really not that expensive.
In Europe most firms are charging 1 Euro to start the eScooter and then additional 15ct per minute. In my opinion this is more than enough to make a decent profit. There are profitable car sharing companies here that let you rent a car for effectively 25-35cents per hour - that is including gas. So somehow, these car sharing companies that have huge upfront costs for purchasing the cars (30-40x more than a eScooter), high maintenance costs, annual registration fees, insurance costs etc. are turning a profit despite charing only a few cents more than the eScooter companies.
They are not cheap to ride. Riders are paying $20/hr. I paid a few times and found it convenient compared to catching an Uber. Unit cost is less than $1000. You are looking at a month of use before the thing becomes profitable. At their volume, the cost is likely far less.
The first app to be checked for transportation options to point B has a tremendously valuable asset -- it's not just the scooter, but the fact that it's first in line for the demand.
Useful in a world where ridesharing companies and others are duking it out over users. Less so after the dust has settled.
I will happily short position in any of these scooter companies meant for consumers.
Shame there's nowhere close enough of bike paths for stuff like this. Really disappointing.
Plus council took their licence away and gave to local company. That's like a pure corruption, nepotism or protectionism.
The amount of smear articles on NZHerald about Lime was disgusting too. It's either an by delusionally old farts or again - corruption.
I do recognize a number of holes in this logic, for instance: is scooter traffic comparable to foot traffic?
I recall a study in Paris last year (iirc) in which they concluded that the useful life of these scooters was shorter than their individual rental break even points...
The exit strategy was always: get acquired by Ford, GM, or another major auto manufacturer who wants the ad space. OR look to companies with massive ad spend: Citibank, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas, Oracle, etc. that would love to have ads in places where ads aren’t allowed (eg. parks) through this loophole.
The scooters are just branded litter, which is a huge market. As long as they can claim it serves some other purpose, it’s legal. You could start dumping branded water fountains all over cities saying it has something to do with hydration and it would be allowed as long as there was an app that allowed you to donate in bitcoin.
Citation needed, at least to convince me. I think they could significantly bring down the cost at scale (production/maintenance wise at least).
These scooters are already at a fairly decent economy of production. Chinese factories are producing these in the thousands and companies are buying wholesale.
The core technology (batteries especially) is expensive, full stop. I’m curious where you think they could save money in larger scales? That’s not even to mention to get larger scale, they need more consumer adoption. I don’t have reliable data for this, but anecdotally I’ll say consumer interest is stagnant, and that’s already at unprofitable/heavily incentivized margins.
Here's one supporting piece of evidence:
>Lime shuts in 12 markets, lays off around 100
9/10 times, my net displacement for the day is 0. If my net displacement is zero, I would prefer to own the medium I'm using to move. Bike, car, scooter etc. Only exception is stuff with really high capital costs, like planes and trains, in which case I pay a small fee to avoid owning a railway or airline.
For scooters, there are no high capitals costs; the cost of a scooter is laughably low. It's sold as a quicker-than-walking, less-hassle-than-a-car last mile solution, but again, 9/10 of my trips are 0 displacement, so, why not just buy the scooter outright? Cheaper, safer, faster (I know where it is, no need to walk to it, etc).
They only way Lime, Bird etc survive is by legislation. Lobby for scooter licensure, buy up all the licenses, and become the taxi industry (except for scooters, and you have to drive!)
What an ironic loop.
At this point, the only reason to fund these guys is FOMO.
9/10 times, I'm moving from one location with many other people in it to another location with many other people. I would prefer not needing to own any medium in order to move between them, but instead be able to use a public service to do so. Bus, tram, metro, citybike, scooter. I'd really rather not own stuff with really high capital costs, like cars.
At this point, the only reason to own anything more expensive than a bike is bad city planning and infrastructure.
For a 10 minute commute daily commute, the break even point for buying a scooter vs renting one comes in less than 60 days.
Look up the boots theory of sociological unfairness. You're able to save money this way because you can afford something sturdy and reliable, whereas poor folks, if they buy something, buy something that is cheap and will break quickly. They'll need to do this over and over again, which in the end causes them to spend considerably more money than you.
Rental scooters (and bikes and e-bikes) may feel like they're more expensive in the end, but they're generally much cheaper, when you consider repairs or replacement, and especially when you consider theft (which will be covered by your insurance, but poor folks don't have that).
Also, most scooter/bike rental companies have outreach programs for poor communities, which drastically lower the cost, or provide service for free.
I can assure you I've spent far less not owning a car, even with every Uber ride, car rental, scooter rental, transit, and taxi ride.
Additionally, depreciation is not linear. I drive an older vehicle, it has already mostly depreciated as far as it will go.
Only if you have an alternate way to get to work like good public transportation. Otherwise buying a depreciating asset like a car is the only way to survive in many places. It's like paying rent. Perhaps not ideal, but it is a practical reality for many.
Either we need to figure out how to drop off and pickup passengers at speed, or penalize individualized transport that is space inefficient (like cars). Good luck pursuing the latter in the US; punitive measure seem to work elsewhere.
I think the way forward is compact private transport, like bikes, scooters, walking, etc, augmented by a robust mass public transit. Unfortunately, that mix implies a expensive re-configuring of most American cities.
This isn't true if you are in a dense city with good public transit. This is currently mid day (3 PM), and it's about 30% faster (21 minutes vs 29 minutes) to go from my current location in Manhattan to a bar I enjoy hanging out in Brooklyn via public transit than car, according to Google Maps. It would be even better around rush hour.
I don't see how it is 'inherently' the slowest, especially given the traffic patterns that inherently result from private transit options.
>> I have no desire to make 10 stops before I get where I'm going.
The point of public transit in the form of e-scooters and e-bikes is to make your door-to-door commute one trip.
>> I also have zero desire to rent my modes, as that encourages literally rent seeking behavior.
Most people just care about convenience and price. Shared mobility options like e-bikes and e-scooters check both boxes if they can reach scale.
In a lot of cities, driving is not faster. It's just sometimes the only option.
This is certainly true where I live -- public transit is the slowest by a large margin. Driving is generally the next slowest, depending on the exact trip. Bicycling tends to be the quickest.
I lives in Vietnam, where scooters are dominant. It is even less compact than car on the road.
This is even more confusing for companies like "scoot" that rent both "scooters" and "kick scooters"
Then in 1917 it was used to refer to the children's toy.
Source: printed OED.
The German sister-in-law can get everything into a backpack and midsized rolling suitcase to bring my niece along for the train ride to her parents at the other end of Germany.
The American sister-in-law traded in her Tahoe for a Suburban when my nephew was born and manages to fill the cargo compartment for a week at her parents, where she still has her own room.
99% of all our family journeys begin and end at our home. Happily we own two (ICE) vehicles, they're sitting outside the house right now ready to be used tomorrow.
(As an aside) I've just booked a flight for Sunday (o/w flight $46 including all taxes and fees). I'm flying the best part of 600mi, so I've booked a rental car at the destination airport. It's going to cost me $72 for three days rental, including all taxes and fees.
None of this stuff is new...
Meanwhile I find "well designed city" environment bad to my mental health. Who (or what?) is it "well designed" for?
Moving away from downtown to outskirts worked pretty well to my mental health.
Obviously different people have different needs. And even same human being have different needs in different stages of his life. But I find it hard to call something "well designed" if it works only for some people in some walks of life.
It would work better for individual transport if there was balanced multidirectional flow around the clock. Instead we have mostly-unidirectional flow centered around narrow times of day.
I don't. 9/10 times, despite zero net displacement my commutes are asymmetrical — on my way there I'm in a rush, but on the way back I'm not. So I'll often take a high cost, high speed option like a scooter towards a destination, then take a more leisurely, generally free option like walking or transit back home. As a bonus, I never have to deal with storing my vehicle while I'm at my destination, or with taking it with me if I add an intermediate stop nearby before returning home.
When I ask people if they would commute to work on public transit, the biggest thing they worry about is, "What if I have to ____?" They don't like the thought of being useless when their partner asks them to run an errand, or left out when their friends plan something after work. Even if 95% of their workdays would be nothing but catching the bus or train downtown, working and patronizing businesses in a small walkable area, and then taking the bus or train home again, and even if it's significantly less burdensome than driving, a lot of people will still drive because they can't give up the feeling of being able to deal with contingencies. Rental and on-demand transportation options address that without forcing people to keep their own vehicle on hand every day even though they rarely need it.
I think this is an important factor for making public transit attractive to people who are accustomed to the advantages of driving everywhere. Right now, car-based services like Uber and Lyft are sufficient for that, but as city centers back away from the massive accommodations they've made for car traffic, bikes and scooters will become more important.
The value proposition of a scooter service is ad hoc last mile transport where you don’t have to have brought the scooter with you to use it.
There may still be issues with the model. It might be that isn’t a demand profile that has the right scale to support much of a business (but could be useful for municipalities to provide, like some do with bikeshares). And I find rideshares are price competitive for last mile stuff (though it’s well known that’s only because ride costs are subsidized with investor cash, so maybe all scooter shares have to do to find their market niche is hold out til that stops). Or maybe most people feel safer with other forms of transport.
But the basic “summon something better than walking without having to carry it with you” idea does make some fundamental sense.
For me, a scooter is much more affordable than say, a hotel. I am willing to pay a small premium in rent over buying the hotel for the convenience and flexibility of not having to own a hotel.
I am fortunate enough that there's no way a lime makes any sort of financial sense for commuting last mile in a place I live. I can buy a scooter for $500; I will break even on Lime/Bird in less than 3 months. For tourists, great, for denizens, not so much.
The simple fact is, unless you want to pay for the luxury of having to walk to a scooter you pilot yourself, owning your own things has always made more sense. The ability to semi-summon an object on command is great when you need, and can afford, the option. However, we should be optimizing infrastructure for everyone, not just those who can pay for it.
Scooter shares may indeed not make much sense for commutes. That's the sort of predictable and regular need that it makes sense to optimize for time or money or both, as you've said. But then again, rideshares are rarely going to help with such optimization (probably true as long as funding a driver is part the whole thing). Personal vehicles, or public transport, or even workplace carpools make much more sense there. And yet rideshares do well enough because it turns out there's a whole class of ad hoc transport needs where summoning a ride on demand is awfully convenient.
Acquiring a scooter on demand has the same possibilities, especially if it can be economically competitive.
Finding places to park and lock and worry about it not getting stolen is just way too much.
Relevant: I've owned 4 $1000+ bike over the past 10 years, one of which is stolen right outside home, another is almost stolen (moved then found after a frantic search).
However, doing it on a day to day basis you can quickly spend more in a couple of months then just buying a scooter. The only benefit is not having to lug it with you, but not sure if that offsets the higher costs of non-ownership.
However, this doesn't help much with the larger model. Cars have insurance for example, and that more or less works out, right?
We have to fully admit that, all else equal, being responsible for the security and maintenance of a scooter is worse than offloading that to Lime/Lyft/Bird.
The only reason I bought a scooter is because I wanted to go over 30mph with suspension (i.e. new features). I use mine for joyriding and secure it in my apartment.
there are a lot of reasons, but here are the two big ones. unlike any rental car I've seen at an avis lot, my car is actually fun to drive. you'll never see a car with a manual transmission for rent in america, unless you go on turo. second, I take much better care of my car than most people. after seeing how people treat vehicles they actually own, I don't want to rent a vehicle that hasn't been thoroughly cleaned and inspected after the previous driver.
Basically, a large operation could have economies of scale (in house mechanics, only two models of car to choose from, own the fuel stations...) but the utilization of the vehicles probably would not change dramatically from the utilization of the private "fleet" we have today.
Last year I moved to a small city in Northern California with no Uber/Lyft, & I don't own a car because of money shortage, I had a bike from Walmart for $150 which was stolen before I moved from Bay Area. I looked at some of the scooters equivalent to Bird or Lime ones, starting from $800 upwards.
I found a good one from Walmart Thanksgiving sale for $250; but it was not good enough for that money; & I returned it & returned to walking around. So, I would live Bird or Lime coming here; & no, the cost is not low enough for all of us.
Taxis exist despite most people owning a car.
The use-case for scooter rentals is different though. I use them sometimes when I need to go to a different unknown place. A bar for example, where it would be inconvenient to bring my own transportation and deal with parking
Why build another search engine people? Alta Vista etc. have already solved the problem.
Not to say that ideas don't fail, but don't count the chickens before they have hatched and there are a few approaches still left to try.
Storing things that are smaller than cars is really tough, and scaling a business like this nationally is fairly capital and operationally expensive.
If the scooters were street legal, this would be a great localized business.
With this pattern, you want some form of transit that will reliably be there for you in the morning, every morning.
Owning your own car, motorcycle, bike, or scooter works for that. It's yours so it will be there for you whenever you want.
Public transit can also work, if there are stops or stations near enough to your home and work and it operates on a schedule that fits yours.
His point is that transportation services like Lime, where you pick up scooters from whatever semi-random place the last user left it and you are supposed to stay within some specified area don't work well for the home => office => home cycle. There may not be a scooter near your home in the morning, even if you happened to have left one there the night before. For a lot of people, home will also be outside the service area, so taking one home would incur penalties.
But if you have you own car, motorcycle, bike, or scooter, and you have to use that to go to work, then using that for all your other transportation while in the city is probably going to make more sense than renting a Lime scooter.
I think he's being a little too pessimistic about the market for something like Lime. I've worked at places where I've driven my own car in, but would have been happy to have something like Lime while at the office for things like going out for lunch, because lunchtime traffic was pretty bad around the office but there weren't any good lunch places in easy walking distance.
Source: Rode both Lime and Uber JUMP bikes in Seattle (rode a JUMP bike twice last night)
Though, I feel like the reasoning is opposite for the scooters; they're absolutely huge vehicles that were clearly built to last in the harsh environments they're deployed in, and in doing so gained a ton of weight and volume. They're slow. The brakes are often so strong that they could cause riders to loose balance from the negative acceleration. They manuver so poorly that I feel unsafe while riding them. The big reason why I love the gen-1 Bird scooters, as unreliable as they are, is because they're so damn nimble, I have zero issues taking super-tight turns and weaves, and often that's necessary in urban environments just to protect yourself from the hazards of broken roads or cars. The newest gen Bird scooters strike a decent balance between being lightweight, fast, and (I assume) durable to the extreme environment.
Most of all, though, I wonder how much of my brand preferences are entirely the result of randomness.
I LIKE dockless bikeshare. But the bikes have to be safe to ride.
In my town, they rolled out the Lime bikes and then pulled out a year and a half later. Now there are a bunch of abandoned green squares around the neighborhood where they used to be deployed.
The JUMP bikes are just better made by a wide margin and seem to handle the abuse well - https://www.standard.co.uk/tech/london-electric-bikes-tested...
Example Lime e-bicycle: https://road.cc/content/news/252967-london-gets-its-first-do...
I'm surprised that it was warmer climate cities that underperformed in the US, because I would have expected those to have a much better chance for profit, as cold winter seasons dramatically reduce scooter usage. Too much competition?
It also doesn't help that these companies let defective equipment remain in the network. After grabbing a scooter one day that had zero brakes, discovered only when I was trying to stop at a red light and not get slaughtered in the intersection, I now do an inspection of the brake lines and the wheels before I unlock. For some consumers the state these scooters are in will put them off entirely.
I was surprised about this too. Though, from my anecdotal experience, there are a ton of micromobility companies operating in San Diego.
Bird, Lime, Uber/Jump, Razor, and Lyft just off the top of my head. There’s pretty much at least one or so parked on every corner in the downtown area.
Here in Seattle, I saw lots of trashed Lime bikes and lots of unsavory folks using them, often with enough stuff piled onto them to imply they had forcibly unlocked them and were using them long-term. I ran into a couple of managers at Lime once and they said vandalism and theft was a big problem.
The problem right there. It doesn’t have to be that way, its a choice.
Key points: 15% of scooter riders who seek medical attention have a traumatic brain injury. This doesn't include those transported by EMS. 63% of injured riders had ridden an scooter 9 or more times before.
Perhaps e-scooters are safe in some markets, but in many they are a death trap that the vendors will never have to pay for.
This statistic is meaningless without a base rate.
Also wear a helmet if you are going be on the roads in the US!
For a company with a physical product and inventory, 8 people per city seems like somewhere in the neighborhood of sobriety, possibly verging on stingy. Not the sort of excess we so often find in a tech company that is experiencing layoffs.
Failure rates are known to be fairly high and accidents are common . I was on a Lime that had a brake failure and I was pretty badly injured. Lime themselves have indicated that the failure rate was around .00045%, but that's still 450 brake failures per million rides .
I think a lot of this has to do with regulation. Some cities actively encouraged scooters and bikes, some took a hands-off approach, and others banned or restricted them to the level where it was difficult to operate.
You can really see the effect of this in San Diego, which at first welcomed the bikes and scooters, then reversed course and banned them in a lot of places . Several of the companies left town after that happened, and you see a lot fewer bikes and scooters around now. It's still the same city, same weather, and there are more bike lanes than there were two years ago. The only thing that changed is the regulation.
I'm in San Diego, and that's exactly what happened. I live downtown, and at first, scooters were my favorite way to get around.
Then the city forced the scooter vendors to configure no-ride zones, 3mph speed limit zones (seriously, you can walk faster), and no-parking zones inside their apps, and geofence them. Overnight, the downtown scooter market just dried up. I stopped using all scooters downtown because of this, not just Lime, and since the regulation kicked in, I can't see any scooter company making it in downtown San Diego. The scooters just disappeared.
Not profitable - check
Good for society - check
In need of regulation - check
Greedy contractors and privatization aside, you need infrastructure for transit, and for these scooters and bikes that means building bike lanes. Otherwise, it's no surprise that ridership is declining as they aren't safe on roads with LA drivers who kill more pedestrians every year. The LA bike lane network is currently an embarrassment with little political support for improvement, in fact there are councilmen actively working to remove bike lanes from their neighborhoods.
That doesn't seem too excessive to me. What do you think would be a more reasonable price for purchasing an electric bike* with a fair degree of customization and a corresponding maintenance contract?
* IIRC the bikes have integrated NFC readers for your TAP card, built in U-locks, probably GPS, and that sweet sweet Metro paint job.
My wife is seriously considering a scooter (Even a non-electrified one) for her commute (2-3 days a week, 5 miles) - and I can't see a world where we'd rent one on the daily, as opposed to owning.
My uninformed guess is:
A problem with the rental model is the colossal inefficiency of having to pay people with cars and vans to drive around, and collect + charge scooters at the end of the day. This is a huge waste of resources and human time. Even with VCs p------ a firehose of money into the market, most of it ends up going to drivers, rather than customers.
Assuming the following:
Cost to buy: $500
Cost to charge $0.40/day (maybe generous)
Cost to Rent: $2/day
Rental Mileage: $0.15/min
Assume 10mph average, (10 miles/day) $9/day
Total: $11/day to rent
100 days (200 rides):
No way it’s economical to rent scooters routinely. Even if you break your scooter every 6 months, you can still save by buying a new one.
And who wants to ride scooters you know are abused? Heck, I rode one and the brakes didn’t work.
But that only works if scooters are ubiquitous enough that you can find one when you want one.
If I have to walk 5-10 min to the nearest car which I can unlock from my phone and then use to drive 5 miles somewhere then it's great, but if I have to walk 5-10 minutes to the nearest scooter pickup so I can scooter somewhere for 5-10 minutes then it sort of defeats the whole point.
As you said, if it's much longer than that, then there's no point -- I don't think I'd want to ride a scooter more than a mile or so anyway, so if it takes me 10 minutes to find one, I may as well just walk the whole way.
If it's getting later in the day most of the scooters you find are going to be scattered in all sorts of very strange areas, many times in gated apartments, and/or with not enough charge to get you home. Or maybe you have to settle for that scooter with the screen dangling out of it by the wires and the handlebars at 45* relative to the wheel that everyone else was just not desperate enough to use.
This is certainly true for the hire bikes in London (scooters don't seem to have gotten permission for many areas yet).
One of the biggest detractors is that you could ride a scooter to work and when you go to leave, realize the nearest scooter is half a mile away.
Bicycles in big cities are too inflexible. If all you want is to commute like a sheep from home to work and back to home every day then a bicyle is a great inexpensive and green choice, in every other case it's a problem. Unless of course you are in a small village, where a possible change of plans will still result in a short ride. In London this is not possible. If I was to meet friends spontaneously outside my daily commute area then it would be impossible with a bicycle.
The smallest folding bicycles (e.g. Brompton) are fine, but scooters must either be balanced upright, exposing dirty wheels, or take up a lot of floor space. No thanks!
In the largest cities like London, if my plans changed I'd just leave the bicycle at work, and take public transport to the party, home, and to work the next day (unless my way home passes work, then I can collect the bicycle).
It doesn't matter how slow you pedal, in the American Southeast, just being outside in the summer makes you sweat. A lot of places in this area don't have offices with showers in them. A scooter let me spend time outside without having to end up being a mess.
I enjoyed biking in Austin, but as you can imagine the intense heat a good portion of the year meant a full outfit change and shower after every ride just to start the day.
Also they have less of a learning curve compared to biking on roads, and are easier to maintain, IMO.
Me and my friends accidentally ended up testing that theory in LA. We were going to koreatown from Santa Monica and had about 10 miles left. Half of us decided to use limebikes, another half ended up taking uber. The people on limebikes arrived at about the same time, despite the whole scooter group having to stop every 30-40 minutes and search for another scooter, since in a group of 5 people riding those, there would inevitable be one that is running out of charge in that time interval.
Safety wise, I'd say they are about even. Cars aren't going to value your life either way.
I think the relative efficiency of the share model needs to be weighed against the inefficiency of everyone owning their own while only using it a fraction of the time.
I think that objectively a bike is a much better option for longer trips like this. Both in terms of efficiency and safety. I'd be VERY surprised if on a per mile basis, scooters weren't much more dangerous than bikes.
However, scooters FEEL safer for non-regular bike riders because you are closer to the ground, the helmet feels more optional (though it should not be) and riding on the sidewalk, where you are away from cars, feels like more of an option on a scooter than on a bike (although again, it shouldn't be).
I'd certainly advise a bike if the route is at all flat, and an e-bike if it isn't, but I can understand why that seems like a less appealing choice to some.
I'm confident that, regardless of "feeling", bicycles are the better option for pretty much all tourists/novices who can ride one. It's much, much more stable at all speeds. Scooter riders wobble when starting off, wobble when going at a reasonable speed, wobble when stopping and struggle with turn signals.
On the other hand, even very young children on unpowered kick scooters tend to have pretty good control.
A scooter just seems dangerous on the roads and even trails around here -- there are many ruts and potholes that will swallow a 4" scooter wheel and bring you to an abrupt stop.
Riding a scooter doesn't even avoid the need to wear a helmet (assuming that protecting your brain is important to you). Many people wrongly assume that the helmet is to protect you if a car hits you, but really it's there to protect you when your head hits the pavement for any fall -- there's a very low speed range where a helmet is any protection in a collision but even a simple fall can result in serious head injury without a helmet if your head hits the pavement.
Intercity bus routes only run M-F, so to go 10 miles downtown I have to get the whole way by myself. I can bike, but even if I were in better shape I would still be quite sweaty and exhausted by the time I make that trip. My scooter gets me the distance in an hour comfortably and I don't feel like I need to change after I arrive.
You would think making a long trip like this and standing up for an hour would be a pretty terrible experience, but I've been quite comfortable with it as well as 3 mile trips to the office when required, etc.