Running Down the Dream on an Electric Scooter in Santa Monica
I'm old enough to know when to fight them, and when to join the movement
April 27, 2018
Electric scooters have become ubiquitous in this town. They zip down under used bike lanes at 20 miles an hour, past traffic and schoolchildren and dogs and old folks. Old people like me generally hate the Birds, but I must admit they have become a guilty pleasure of mine. I probably look ridiculous in my tie, running down a dream that never would come to me.
And why not? Electric scooters are frankly, the best urban solution anyone has thought of for last mile transportation. Santa Monica is a small town, and for a few bucks you can get anywhere effortlessly. My wife has her doubts, but I'll probably keep doing it at least until I skin my knees, or worse.
"When you ride a Bird, it reminds you of being free. It gives you freedom. Like you have wings," said Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden. I could not have said it better.
The New York Times reports that the scooters have become a national trend that started in Santa Monica. From their 4/20 article:
Electric scooters have arrived en masse in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, with companies competing to offer the dockless and rechargeable vehicles. Leading the pack is (Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden), with rivals including Spin and LimeBike. The start-ups are buoyed with more than $250 million in venture capital and a firm belief that electric scooters are the future of transportation, at least for a few speedy blocks.
The premise of the start-ups is simple: People can rent the electric scooters for about a $1, plus 10 cents to 15 cents a minute to use, for so-called last-mile transportation. To recharge the scooters, the companies have "chargers," or people who roam the streets looking to plug in the scooters at night, for which they get paid $5 to $20 per scooter.
The problem is that cities have been shocked to discover that thousands of electric scooters have been dropped onto their sidewalks seemingly overnight. Often, the companies ignored all the usual avenues of getting city approval to set up shop. And since the scooters are dockless, riders can just grab one, go a few blocks and leave it wherever they want, causing a commotion on sidewalks and scenes of scooters strewn across wheelchair ramps and in doorways.
So officials in cities like San Francisco and Santa Monica, Calif., have been sending cease-and-desist notices and holding emergency meetings. Some even filed charges against the scooter companies.
Well anyway, the things are here to stay. Later in the article, they point out that 100 years ago, Americans resisted transitioning from horses to cars.