Electric scooters are really worth a test ride so nobody should be afraid to check it out. Even though the entire West Coast is caught up in a scooter craze, San Francisco has really been a pioneer in banning all of them and only allowing two companies, Scoot and Skip, back to provide for their citizens.
Let’s Define an Electric Scooter
The world has evolved in such a way that people need and want to get everywhere as fast as possible. Since we mainly use cars for in-town transportation, this has led to a plethora of cars everywhere and a lot of angry drivers being stuck in traffic.
This is one of the main reasons why electric scooters, the cool nephews of the old mopeds invented after World War II, are being hailed by some as the problem-solvers to our car problems. Especially in big cities of the world, where waiting in traffic for hours is quite the common thing, the scoots really seem to make a difference.
From a technical standpoint, an electric scooter is a plug-in type of vehicle which stores energy in a type of rechargeable battery to be able to function with one or more electric motors. While manufacturers are still working to make them more affordable and to have the battery last longer, they are still quite popular in the U.S. and around the world.
Charging an Electric Scooter
Starting this year, most of the electric scooter charging industry has been changed to revolve around rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, although some of the earlier models still use nickel-metal hydride ones.
However, since we’re talking about technology, there’s always something bigger and better right around the corner and right now a company is promoting a new type of lithium-ion battery which is apparently lighter and faster than the regular one. This technology also reached U.S. shores and was first used by a scooter called The Expresso.
Studies are indicating that the new type of battery can be almost completely charged in ten minutes, an incredible improvement from the four-to-six hours it takes to charge an electric scooter right now. If this is correct, it might also mean a big change for the people who charge scoots as their side-gig to earn extra money.
Furthermore, the company also states that the new battery should be able to withstand the equivalent of seventy years worth of charges, really raising its value in the long run.
If you’re curious about how exactly the charging process works, it’s really simple: somebody who charges their phone will also be able to do the same thing to a scooter. You simply plug them into ordinary wall outlets and wait for them to get back to full power, which will take anywhere between four to even eight hours, depending on the brand.
What some companies did was to design, include in the package, or even offer as an added accessory a high-power charger which can get an electric scooter up to full battery in close to one hour of idle time.
Electric Scooters in the United States
When it comes to the U.S., electric scooters are becoming more and more common in cities all around the country, even though important places like New York still have then on the ban list. They are one of the most used forms of shared transportation and, for the same reason, they also anger pedestrians who are tired of sharing the sidewalk with them.
Lately, they have also overtaken the station-based bicycles in popularity, probably because the bikes must still be left at specific locations when people are done with them as opposed to electric scooters which you can lock with your phone and drop off pretty much everywhere.
A report by the National Association of City Transportation Officials shows that last year Americans took about 38.5 million trips on shared electric scooters compared to the 36.5 million trips on the already old-fashion shared, station-based bicycles.
Therefore, it’s pretty clear that America is really orienting toward a new way of transportation and it will probably become even more unbalanced as time passes by.
What Problems Has This Caused?
One thing that’s standing out is the fact that electric scooters really seemed to have appeared out of nowhere and taken over the markets where they are allowed to exist. The problem is they actually did exactly that since several companies are already renowned for distributing their scooters through cities without first obtaining the legal permits to do so.
However, most of the places have already adapted to this phenomena and are now requiring that scooter companies provide their location data to the authorities to be able to legally function. This data is used to show where the scooters are at any point in time and where their riders are taking them.
While this type of information is, of course, valuable for things like planning new bike routes or understanding traffic patterns, this has raised a national issue after questions concerning user privacy. Some citizens are extremely concerned about the possibility of companies using their GPS data to locate them or learn other sensitive things about them.
Another national concern is the fact that many people are renting scooters after a night of going out and drinking, without wearing a helmet, and this has resulted in a wave of dangerous head injuries.
Problems in San Francisco
In June last year, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency took the decision to ban all electric scooters due to a large number of companies that were functioning without proper approval from the powers to be.
This sparked a wave of mass hysteria that finally caused the authorities to step in and organize a sort of auction in which all the companies could show their projects and the city would choose two that would receive the right to once again spread electric scooters all around San Francisco.
After three months of painstaking work, the two companies which proved to be the most resilient were Scoot and Skip and they are the only ones that are legally allowed to function in the city right now.
The authorities chose these two from a crowded playing field of 12, which submitted a combined 800 pages in proposals detailing their would-be operations, safety, and plans to extend the scooter areas to San Francisco’s neighborhoods.
Skip and Scoot have been awarded the right to each operate at least 625 scooters in the city, a number that could eventually double if their popularity remains as high as the numbers show it to be.
Even though industry bigs Bird and Lime were conspicuously not among the chosen few, officials insisted that the unapproved launch playbook was not the only factor in making this decision. The companies lost points by failing to provide sufficient rider training, scooter rebalancing, and service in areas where there is usually none to be found.
This is exactly where the two companies which won the bid chose to focus the brunt of their efforts, Scoot promising it would force riders to watch instructional videos before hopping on and the San Francisco-based Skip proposing a community advisory board for electric scooter problems.
Some Final Thoughts
San Francisco’s decision to completely ban scooters then carefully control their return back signals that cities and authorities are now used to the wildfire-like way a new trend can spread and are doing everything they can to get ahead of the curve.
It’s possible that they also see this as a do-over, a chance to regulate the new mobility options which threaten to take the world by storm in a way they were never capable of doing when apps like Uber and Lyft first came into the public eye.
Even though both companies also applied for scooter permits in San Francisco and were denied, it’s quite obvious that authorities all around the country learned that they need to be open to new things and, even more important, be able to guide the introduction of those new things to the society.