Grab & Go Transpo: E-Scooters Explained
To meet a growing need for environmentally sustainable public transportation among urbanites and those residing in rural areas, three major start-up companies stepped into the rideshare industry. Lime Micromobility (Lime), Skip Scooters (Skip) and Spin launched an extensive electronic vehicle initiative that included bicycles, automobiles and scooters. Having earned the reputation as a cost-effective alternative for intercity commutes, electronic scooters (e-scooters) have grown increasingly popular within the United States (U.S.) and Europe since debuting in 2016.
With headquarters based on U.S. soil, the micromobility companies offer rideshare services in major metropolises from the nation’s capital to the San Francisco Bay. Prior to utilizing the respective e-scooters, consumers must agree to download the application (app) on a smartphone or compatible interface. Next, a personal account is created, which allows riders to unlock the device by scanning a QR code located beneath the handlebar. After the lock releases, inputting a valid payment method serves as the final step before the commute (and adventure) begins.
Consumers who elect to operate Lime e-scooters are subjected to a practice referred to as “double billing.” An initial fee activates the device while a subsequent charge is tallied based upon aggregate commute time. Conversely, the remittance of an activation expense if not required for those who utilize Skip e-scooters. In fact, the sole fee is determined by overall user mileage.
Bridging the gap between micromobility and accessibility, Spin offers monthly rental plans for riding enthusiasts, in addition to providing personal charging apparatuses. Akin to the Lime model, commuters are requested to submit a payment prior to initially activating the device and are charged for each minute of usage thereafter. For those who enjoy the analog lifestyle, basic text messaging services are available to finalize the process.
Terms of service adhere to a boilerplate template for the rideshare corporations. Users must be 18 years of age or older and possess a current driver’s license. Donning the proper safety gear during the trip is also a mandatory requirement. Pre-operational cautionary warnings conclude with instructions to research local weather conditions and traffic laws. Prohibited activities outlined within the user agreements include operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, riding with additional passengers and using the e-scooter for commercial purposes such as contests, food delivery or advertising services.
As a feature that is shared among the platforms, Lime, Skip and Spin riders utilize digital geographical markers to locate nearby units. Additionally, the apps assist commuters with parking the e-scooters upon trip conclusion. Each company employs a similar business model as local representatives dutifully revitalize battery reserves overnight, ensuring fleet availability.
Aligned with their lingering popularity, public safety concerns have fueled the restriction of e-scooters within several municipalities throughout America. California recently amended Vehicle Code legislation that prohibits the operation of such devices on public sidewalks. The revision also regulates highway travel, governing speed limits to less than 35 miles per hour. On 10 October 2018 the National Association of Insurance Commissioners urged riders to revisit their personal policies for statutes addressing electronic vehicles. The recommendation was published as a result of a myriad of collisions and injuries reported that year.
Although a convenient mode of transportation, the e-scooter industry is plagued by safety issues due to a lack of regulation and oversight. The continual development of start-up micromobility programs, coupled with the proper governance, will provide rideshare companies with a clear-cut pathway towards customer satisfaction and greater dependability.
0940 EDT – Author: Leanne Gregory, Illustrator: Madinah Slaise