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.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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10 Comments

  1. Lime, Bird, et. al. are a pox on this earth.

    By and large, the riders of these things do not obey traffic laws, and simply dump the scooter wherever is convenient for them when they are done using it (in the bushes, in the middle of the sidewalk, blocking entrances to shops, etc.)

    In contrast, CitiBike in Manhattan, or Santander bikes in London for example, have *designated parking/drop-off areas*. The e-scooter companies simply dumped their scooters on the local market without a care for the consequences.

    And no, you’re not ‘saving the planet’ because you used an e-scooter. Coal-fired electricity was more than likely used to manufacture the on-board battery, coal-fired electricity will likely be used to re-charge said battery, and the inevitable disposal of that on-board battery has an environmental impact.

    Drunk guy rents e-scooter at 2am: what could possibly go wrong, LoL?
    Drunk guy call a cab/uber/lyft at 2am: barfs on seat but makes it home alive.

  2. I can see the attraction but in places like Tel Aviv they are becoming a danger in bike lanes and sidewalks (along with e-bikes). In addition, they are taking away enjoyment from others that are walking nearby. How would you like it if you happen to be walking along a nice beachfront area or a random quiet sidewalk only to have a scooter or e-bike blow by you inches away going 30 mph? In addition, people will leave them laying in the street or on the sidewalk to trip over. Again I can see the attraction but not everyone is a responsible user. It would be like legalizing ATV’s on bike lanes. They also aren’t carbon emission-free. They have to be charged and they use gas or diesel vehicles to pick them up during off-hours. Don’t be in such a rush. You talk about missing something but I doubt you are getting the same experience on a scooter.

  3. hate hate hate them with a passion. they are essentially litter. they are actually terrible for the environment b/c the Chinese companies that make them just discard them after they are damaged or the batteries go bad. Some of this could be fixed if they would have specified lots to deposit them and not just let people cast them aside wherever they want. I won’t even get into the safety issues…

  4. Factoid… and I might be misquoting here… if 50% of all rides are less than 5 miles. If we can get cars and congestion off the road… isn’t that a good solution? A little rider education would be good as opposed to doing away with scooters altogether. You have indifferent or poor behavior in all methods of transportation no? A scooter is likely going no faster than a bike. Perhaps limiting the speed? I suppose no one is suggesting we ban bikes? And I live in Austin. The capital of scooters it seems like. The occasional poor rider doesn’t deter me from appreciating their use (I don’t use personally). Now the health issues posed by (inadvertent) accidents concern me. I’ve heard/seen some bad cases. Doubt Uber/Lyft is paying for your medical bills… you’ve basically signed your rights away when you downloaded an app.

    1. A couple of facts or truths should modify your factoid, Tri N.
      It might be different in Austin but in NYC, rude and inconsiderate behavior is not modified by education. People are just that way.
      Scooters in NY do go faster than bikes and I have clocked all types of alternative transport devices going faster than 20 MPH. At that speed they can maim or kill a pedestrian.
      Just curious, the health bills you refer to, are you concerned for innocent pedestrians?

      1. The U.S. Department of Energy posted the majority (59.4%) of one-way household trips are less than six miles in length. Scooters in NY should be using bike lanes not sidewalks since a majority of tourists are walking in the street — however that’s moot since its not legal in NY to begin with? NYC will regulate as Austin will regulate for its community. As for your health bill – will someone please think of the children?

  5. I’m pretty much with Dan. If these scooters were being ridden in a legal and sensible fashion, and not in overwhelming numbers, they’d be great. Sadly, none of the above tend to be correct. Another factor that I hadn’t considered before this post is that rushing through a city as a tourist on one of these, you may as well just take the Segway tour.

    1. Segway tours are embarrassing battery operated cattle herds. I think they’ll all go bankrupt as scooters take over. I had a blast in Washington DC yesterday with a midnight ride to all the monuments for 25 cents per minute. No tour could have compared to that feeling of freedom and flexibility. Scooters are quiet, safe, pollution free, and speed regulated. I didn’t see scooters lying carelessly on sidewalks. I think this is a great improvement in mobility. I’d still take the subway for longer trips but for short journeys I’m all for it.

  6. So much hate. Scooters are great and the cheapest way of transport. My 10km ride is worth 10 cents of electricity, cheaper than biking faster than cars on busy traffic. As long as there is 100 million petrol running cars in America consuming millions of gallons of fuel every day, my hands are clean. You all are such car loving Hippocratic whiners.

  7. I don’t hate scooters. But it’s really hard to see the benefit in a place as crowded as central London. The roads are chock-a-block with lorries, cars and motorcycles. You’d be suicidal to tangle with traffic on a scooter in competition with the motorcycle messengers who already weave and dodge between the vehicles. The cycle lanes are chock-a-block with commuters. There’s already unhealthy competition with the ‘pro’ cyclists who ride really fast, and those who pedal upright at a more leisurely pace. It really doesn’t help to have yet another mode of transport in this space going even faster.The sidewalks are chock-a-block with people, walking. If you’re a tourist who can’t bear to walk or figure out the buses, then there are bikes you can pick up and drop off all over the central part of the city. What’s the point of scooters in this environment?

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