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E-scooters in the US: Everything you need to know about the electric scooters from Bird, Lime, and Spin

Pocket-lint logo Pocket-lint 28/01/2020 pocket-lint.com
a bird sitting on a bench in a park: E-scooter invasion Everything you need to know about electric scooters from Bird Lime and Spin image 1 © Provided by Pocket Lint Limited E-scooter invasion Everything you need to know about electric scooters from Bird Lime and Spin image 1

Electric scooters are invading US and European cities. Where did they come from, how do they work, and do cities love them or hate them?

What are e-scooters?

The e-scooters we're discussing are dockless, rent-by-the-minute electric scooters that can zoom down sidewalks at 15mph or 25kph.

Battery-powered scooters have been available for years, but now they're outfitted with GPS trackers and wireless connectivity. Companies offer on-demand fleets of them that you can rent through an app - sort of how Uber and Lyft offer on-demand fleets of taxis.

Where can you legally ride e-scooters?

It depends on your local laws. In California, you can't ride an e-scooter on sidewalks - only in the street or a bike lane.

They're currently illegal in the UK (although this might change) but are legal in the US and many European countries. 

You must be over the age of 18 to ride, have a valid driver's license, and they can only take one person at a time.

Some US states, like California, require scooter riders to wear a helmet. You can actually order a helmet from Bird for just $1.

Who makes e-scooters?

Several companies make them, but the most popular ones come from three startups: Bird, Lime, and Spin. One leading e-scooter company, Bird, raised $150 million at a valuation north of $1 billion.

It was run by Travis VanderZanden, a former executive of Uber and Lyft. But the idea originates from China, where dockless, park-anywhere bikes (such as Jump Bike and LimeBike) are a huge trend.

Recently we've seen the addition of Usain Bolt to the selection, launching his own range of scooters which are now available in some US cities and in Paris.

How do e-scooters work?

Bird

  1. Download the Bird app for iOS.
  2. Create a login with your email address.
  3. A map in the app will show you any nearby e-scooters (called Birds).
  4. Zoom in to see more detail - like each scooter's battery charge.
  5. Before you grab e-scooter, add your credit card (Settings > Payments).
  6. When you find an e-scooter, near you, you tap the button to unlock it.
  7. The app asks you to snap a photo of the scooter's QR code.
  8. On your first rental, you may need to scan your driver's license.
  9. To start the e-scooter, you kick off three times, then push the throttle button.
  10. You squeeze with the right hand to accelerate and brake with the left.
  11. When done, park by a bike rack and don't block public pathways.
  12. To end the ride, open the app and tap the button to lock the scooter.
  13. The app will show you the ride time cost.
  14. Go here to see Bird's tutorial.

Lime

  1. Download the Lime app for iOS or Android.
  2. Create a login with your phone number or Facebook.
  3. A map in the app will show you any nearby e-scooters (called Lime-S)
  4. Zoom in to see more detail - like each scooter's battery charge.
  5. Before you grab e-scooter, add your credit card (Profile > Wallet).
  6. When you find an e-scooter, near you, you tap the button to unlock it.
  7. The app asks you to snap a photo of the scooter's QR code.
  8. On your first rental, you may need to scan your driver's license.
  9. To start the e-scooter, step on, kick forward, then push the throttle button.
  10. You press down on the right to accelerate and squeeze brake on the left.
  11. When done, park by a bike rack and don't block public pathways.
  12. To end the ride, open the app and tap the button to lock the scooter.
  13. The app will show you the ride time cost.
  14. Go here to see Lime's tutorial.

Spin

  1. Download the Spin app for iOS or Android.
  2. Create a login with your email address or Facebook.
  3. A map in the app will show you any nearby e-scooters.
  4. Zoom in to see more detail - like each scooter's battery charge.
  5. Before you grab e-scooter, add your credit card (Profile > Account).
  6. When you find an e-scooter, near you, you tap the button to scan it.
  7. The app asks you to snap a photo of the scooter's QR code.
  8. On your first rental, you may need to scan your driver's license.
  9. To start the e-scooter, step on, kick forward, then push the throttle button.
  10. You press down on the right to accelerate and squeeze brake on the left.
  11. When done, park by a bike rack and don't block public pathways.
  12. To end the ride, open the app and tap the button to lock the scooter.
  13. The app will show you the ride time cost.
  14. Go here to see Spin's tutorial.

Bolt

  1. Download the Bolt app for iOS or Android.
  2. Create a login with your email address.
  3. A map in the app will show you any nearby e-scooters.
  4. Zoom in to see more detail - like each scooter's battery charge.
  5. Before you grab e-scooter, add your credit card (Payment > Add new card).
  6. When you find an e-scooter, near you, you tap go to navigate to it.
  7. Hit the Ride button in the app and scan the scooter's QR code.
  8. To start the e-scooter, step on, kick forward, then push down the throttle button.
  9. You press down on the right to accelerate and squeeze brake on the left.
  10. When done, park by a bike rack and don't block public pathways. The app will highlight areas you can't park.
  11. To end the ride, open the app and tap the button to lock the scooter.
  12. The app will show you the ride time cost.

How much does it cost to rent an e-scooter?

  • Bird: $1 plus 15 cents per minute
  • Lime: $1 plus 15 cents per minute
  • Spin: $1 plus 15 cents per minute
  • Bolt:¬†$1 plus 15 cents per minute

How fast do e-scooters go?

  • Bird: 15 mph (24kph)
  • Lime: 14.8 mph (23.8kph)
  • Spin: 15 mph (24kph)
  • Bolt: 15 mph (24kph)

How far (range) can e-scooters go?

  • Bird: 15 miles (24km)
  • Lime: 37 miles (59.5km)
  • Spin: 15 miles (24km)
  • Bolt: Unknown

Can you park e-scooters anywhere?

No, and it's causing serious issues in some cities. It's led to the situation being dubbed Scootergeddon, Scooterpocalypse, and Scooter Wars.

San Francisco authorities have begun confiscating illegally parked e-scooters, issuing citations, and sending out cease-and-desist orders as of April 2018. It also kicked e-scooters off the streets on 4 June, but the city doesn't want to ban them. It wants to control them.

Part of the problem also stems from e-scooter companies not following the rules or working with US cities to get permits. In Nashville, Tennessee, the city recently delivered an ultimatum to Bird: Remove all scooters from public rights-of-way in Nashville or the government will seize and impound all scooters that it finds unattended on a city street, sidewalk, park, greenway, or other public areas.

Following a number of high-profile accidents, legislation around scooters is likely to tighten.

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