If you live in San Francisco or Santa Monica, you've probably seen, ridden, or complained about the sudden onslaught of electric scooters on the city streets.
Within weeks, companies such as Bird and LimeBike have launched more than 2,000 dockless electric scooters in San Francisco. For the uninitiated, these e-scooters and e-bikes can be rented for $ 1 to start and are not tied up in one place so they can move to meet or create demand, and theoretically can be picked up and dropped anywhere ,
The expansion of companies into the city met with backlash from regulators and local residents. On the regulatory side, these companies started with little city funding and led the city authorities to issue cease and desist orders while an approval system was in place.
The San Francisco residents' backlash, however, is in the range of "the scooters are in the pedestrian zone" to "they are not safe."
Although these e-scooters can be easy to categorize as a technical fad ̵
If you live in San Francisco or New York City, it's probably difficult to see a lack of public transport as a major problem that needs to be resolved. But even in the outskirts of these cities, and certainly in the cities across the country, a reliable and convenient connection to public transport is not self-evident.
And in low-income communities, this lack of access can again be a major barrier to accessing economic opportunities. Not everyone can afford Uber or Lyft – who often offer their services in response to a lack of reliable transit – or their own cars.
These locations often require a cheap and convenient route to the nearest train or bus or to the city centers. Shared dockless e-scooters and e-bikes can be part of a series of more affordable solutions for cities that help users gain access to city centers or other places with more jobs.
If done correctly, it could also drive more passengers into public transport systems, which could increase the city's revenue and support the growth and maintenance of these systems.
It is a problem that cities want to actively solve.
In New York City, Mayor Bill De Blasio proposed an aboveground tram to connect the banks of Brooklyn and Queens. The big pitch of the BQX tram advocates is that they would connect low-income neighborhoods with economic centers.
But the approval of the project depended largely on whether it amortized and if not, whether it was an appropriate use of government funds.
These new mobility solutions can be a more affordable means for cities to close these transit gaps. And the execution is the key.
For this to work, companies such as Bird, Spin, and LimeBike would need to work closely with cities, consciously incorporating this functional consideration into their overall plan. It can not just be an afterthought or a happy side effect of creating a service for busy city centers.
Businesses need to work actively with cities to identify where the greatest need exists and to share their own insights and data on where they see the most demand and which routes their users take to and from transit.
Starting in busy city centers can be a good way to subsidize the cost of expansion to less populated or underserved communities.
In just one month, Bird said it has seen more than 95,000 scooter rides in San Francisco. As we have already said, e-scooters and e-bikes pose a real threat to shorter trips, typically on Uber and Lyft. The average trip with Bird was 1.5 miles. At Jump, an e-bike startup recently acquired by Uber, the average trip was about three miles. These add up.
More than the potential threat to Uber and Lyft's business, these numbers show that people are starting to realize that this new form factor can be a viable means of getting around. Of course, e-scooters and e-bikes will not be the best option in any terrain or situation – e-scooters, for example, are not a viable way to climb hills in the rain – but they can be one of several options to cost effectively when executed properly ,