Scooter-sharing services have exploded across the West Coast and beyond. Companies like Bird, LimeBike, and JumpBike, have dropped electric scooters across cities including Los Angeles and Santa Monica, and also San Francisco and Minneapolis. Local authorities are not charmed. San Francisco demanded that the companies pull the two-wheelers and re-apply for a permit before they can come back to its streets. Minneapolis decided to go directly after riders instead, writing tickets to those caught on the e-scooters.
Yet even as cities continue to fight these electric scooters, investors are enchanted. Bird has raised approximately $400 million, and now has a valuation of $2 billion. Clearly, these electric menaces are not going away any time soon, littering the sidewalks of California's biggest cities.
New Yorkers rarely like to follow in the footsteps of others — but if the option to ride a Bird comes to the Big Apple there are some thing to know before you hop aboard.
We tested the service, making every mistake we could (so you don't have to), rounding up six key sticking points for New Yorkers and others — including what to do if your scooter starts bucking like a bull. Know this: getting on a Bird isn't as easy as signing up for a bike-sharing service or even Uber, Lyft or Via. There's a bit more needed than downloading an app, grabbing a helmet and riding. These e-scooters have electric motors so they're bound by different transportation laws than bicycles. This is a case where reading the fine print, or our guide, may be worth the effort.
Unlike a regular kick scooter, electric scooters require a driver's license to rideiStock
- You need a driver's license
This may be more of a problem for New Yorkers who carry their lack of a driver's license as a consummate badge of honor. Sure there are people who live in the city and drive, but many New Yorkers have never sat behind the wheel of a car, and have no plans to either. Without a driver's license you're not getting on one of these electric two-wheelers — and no, your library card isn't going to work.
- Forget trying to look cool
If this tweet below isn't proof enough, know that unless you're of a certain age, or imbue a level of cool that rivals Idris Elba, you're just going to look ridiculous flying down the street on a scooter — even one that's got an electric motor. This isn't a chopper, you're not going to cut an "Easy Rider" move.
- It's not Uber
While Bird, LimeBike and JumpBike all claim to be part of the ride-sharing movement — you can't call up a Bird and send your friend off, as you can an Uber. Your smartphone app is the key for these electric scooters, and if it's not nearby, the two-wheeler will start, stop and beep angrily. You've been warned.
You can park an electric scooter on the sidewalk — but you've got to ride in the streetGearBrain
- It's stupid dangerous
You can't ride e-scooters on the sidewalk, they move slower than a bike and you're riding with cars. Nothing bad's gonna happen there, right? We didn't break a limb or nearly kill anyone, but there wasn't a second when we weren't constantly worried a car would clock us.
- You can't take anything with you
Bikes have baskets, cars have trunks. Scooters? You're hauling everything on your back because balancing grocery bags on both arms while steering these flimsy metal tubes isn't going to happen.
You can't rent a helmet with your Bird, but that doesn't mean you don't need oneiStock
- Helmets required
Most who use bike-sharing services carrying a helmet — it's basic smarts. You need one with e-scooters too. The difference? Bike racks are located in set spots, while Birds and JumpBikes can be anywhere. We assume New Yorkers will decide it's not worth hiking the blocks for a Bird with their helmet in hand, and call an Uber instead — no driver's license required.