If you’ve been to Paris, Vienna, London, San Francisco or just about any other major city lately, you’ve probably also noticed a growing travel trend. People are zipping around on motorized scooters, often on sidewalks, sometimes in bike lanes and sometimes even into oncoming traffic. This new craze is transforming the way people take in the sights, but for obvious reasons, not everyone is a fan. So, what do we think about this new phenomenon?
I’ll admit it, I’m a fan.
Before you crucify me, or label me as a clueless millennial constantly in search of a new and ironic means of transportation – hear me out – they’re really great. I’ve always been a traveller that aims to walk though a city anywhere remotely feasible, and I’d say that all of my favourite travel experiences originate from this pursuit, but lately, I find myself scooting.
Why? Because it’s fast, and if I have limited time, fast is good – and on a scooter, fast is also fun. Given endless time you’d still find me on foot, but with the micro trip and the extended layover en vogue, people just want to see as much as they can, as quickly as possible.
The premise of these new and addictive transportation methods is simple: a great app and an easy experience. Outfits such as Lime and Bird allow you to scan a barcode and immediately unlock any scooter, locking it remotely with the swipe of a hand. If you can’t find one, an interactive map shows you where every unclaimed scooter in your immediate area is.
Sure, it took me a few minutes to get used to the accelerator, the break, the helmet and the feeling of surfing through a city, but it really grew on me. You’re billed by the time, or the mileage, but in any case it’s cheaper than Uber, and as noted by the apps – much better for the environment too. In fact, it sends me notifications to let me know there were no carbon emissions on each journey.
But what about safety? In many cities, these trendy motorized scooters are permitted in bike lanes, which allows for safe and efficient transit. In others, they’re fine on pedestrian walkways, or in places like Central Park. Some cities absolutely despise them though, so much like many sharing economy ideas, it will be interesting to see where lines are drawn.
I had my first Lime experience during an extended layover in Brisbane, and frankly, I wouldn’t have gotten to know the city as well as I do without them. In Vienna, where I sit today, I would have to say the same. I had one day for seeing the sights, and I probably did it all about 5x faster thanks to my motorized companion. Sure, I didn’t burn quite as many calories, but the ability to hop on and hop off meant I still walked over 2 miles on the day.
Of course, there’s another side to everything. These scooters are flooding bike lanes, and if they become too popular, they could become yet another thing for meandering tourists to dodge, as they walk aimlessly through the streets. But really, it’s hard not to see the positives outweighing the risks. These rides give off no carbon emission, encourage people to get outside and allow travellers and locals alike to speed up their journey, without hopping in a car.
Ultimately, it’s up to cities to increase their dedicated bike lanes and safe pedestrian zones to make this fun means of transportation (and others) safer and more enjoyable for all. I must say, I love these scooters and hope to see them take on an increasing role worldwide. If you have limited time and want to “see it all”, they’re really hard to beat.