Two-wheeled electric scooters have become a common sight in many cities across the US. In the city of Santa Monica, CA, in particular, it’s almost as if the scooters have flooded the city overnight. A company called Bird is behind the scooter “revolution” in Santa Monica. The company started offering electric scooters in the city back in September last year. Ever since, it seems these scooters are everywhere.
Many local governments have acknowledged that there’s a need to incorporate electric scooters into the urban transport. However, the way in which Bird has gone about its business has been the problem. Nonetheless, Bird has become one of the “out of nowhere” success stories in tech. The company was founded in 2017 and so far it has already managed to raise nearly $400 million in funding. Bird is also reportedly valued at over $2 billion.
But Bird is not the only company that’s venturing into the electric scooter market. Another company called Lime is also making headway in this sector. Lime’s white and green e-scooters first appeared in Los Angeles as Bird’s direct competitor. San Francisco has also seen an invasion of electric scooters and local officials have in fact banned a number of companies from operating in certain places.
Electric scooters work the same way as bike sharing in Europe. The scooters are “dockless.” In other words, there are no usage restrictions. You can simply grab one as soon as you see it and be on your way. There aren’t any specific parking areas either. You simply leave the scooter wherever you want as long as you are done using it. You can find available scooters by using your smartphone.
Some chaotic scenes have been reported though regarding these new transport modes. For instance, residents at a local public meeting in Santa Monica said that some teens were seen riding the scooters recklessly and ramming into pedestrians. In addition to this, although one scooter is meant for one person, you can easily find two or three people riding one. Some of the teens have also been reported to ride the scooters without any protective gears like helmets.
The scooter revolution is happening barely a few years after the expansion of other innovative urban transport options like ride-hailing services. When Uber and Lyft started operating in major cities, there was some resistance from city officials. But these services expanded so rapidly that local governments had to figure out a way to accommodate them.
It seems that this is the same path that we are heading to with electric scooters. But the current public outrage on the scooters and the way they are being handled by the companies involved may slow down their expansion. It’s very likely that some cities will slap companies like Lime and Bird with additional regulations or even ban them from operating. But even then, it seems there’s a customer base for this service and as long as the demand remains high, no regulation will be able to stop the current expansion.