This past week, I undertook what was probably the most ridiculous project of my burgeoning journalism career. After having my interest piqued by the Lime and Bird scooters littered across campus, I rode exclusively electric scooters to and from campus for an entire week. My conclusion was that while electric scooters are without a doubt the most thrilling transportation option on campus, the service isn’t a very good primary method of transport.
The rules for the project were as follows: First, I had to take a scooter both to and from campus every day from my house — no matter how long it took to find one. Second, once I was on campus, I didn’t have to scoot. Last, I got one freebie for the entire week.
Over the course of the week, I went from fresh-faced, optimistic scooter baby to grizzled, cynical scooter veteran. Day one was an awkward beginning as I struggled with questions like: “Where should I park this thing?” and “Wait, why is my accelerator sticking? How do I control this?” However, after getting over my initial awkwardness, I quickly slipped into the honeymoon phase of the project.
By day two, I couldn’t get enough and I roped my friends into scoots around our neighborhood. Day three found me gravitating toward the scooters for unnecessary, on-campus trips. But this ultimately ended in disillusionment: after coming back from a concert, a friend and I were stranded in Dinkytown trying to find two functioning scooters with dying phone batteries. On day four, I finally managed to take a Bird scooter — I had only taken Limes until that point due to convenience.
Day five was bittersweet, and I reflected on questions of differences between the brands and more existential queries like: “When will I be released from my scooter tethers and enter the void?” By the end of the day, I was feeling pretty sentimental — at least until I went on an hour-long wild goose chase around campus trying to find a working scooter, before it got sniped out from under me.
While riding an electric scooter is just about the most fun you can have while running late to class, they ultimately make a difficult primary method of transportation. It was easy to pick up scooters on or near campus during the day, but I frequently ended up on long, frustrating trips trying to find scooters in my neighborhood in the mornings or on campus at night. Furthermore, while a scooter ride is certainly cheaper than an Uber or Lyft, it’s considerably more expensive than a bus pass. I spent about $50 over the course of the week, which is almost half the cost of a semester-long U-Pass.
There are associated safety issues as well. I felt particularly vulnerable on a scooter, even while riding in the bike lane. I’ve also heard too many anecdotes about people wiping out.
Ultimately, the scooters are a fun, sometimes convenient transportation alternative. I’ll definitely be cutting back on my usage after this week, but I won’t hesitate to scoot in a pinch. There’s still some work to be done — the Minnesota Daily Editorial Board previously pointed out concerns regarding parking and safety — but for now, I’m content to scoot another day of my own volition.