Last week I was in LA, Venice Beach. Immediately you notice that the mobile-rented LIME & BIRD electric scooters are swarming the sidewalks and bike paths in epic quantities. I’m not talking about your regular kid's push scooter. These are 20-plus-pound motorised electric scooters, that move up to 20mph, and have flooded LA’s streets. The gorgeous bike path with a massive panoramic view of the ocean is now taken up with over sixty% e-scooters.
If you’ve visited recently, you might've seen them parked around Santa Monica, Venice and Marina del Ray. Some have even been spotted in Culver City. Now they're expanding to the rest of the US: Austin, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington DC. And, I hear, it will be the rest of the world from there.
On the first day that I saw them, I remember assuming that people had bought their own electric scooters and were happily riding them across LA. I then started to question myself. I was walking down to Venice Beach from my hotel when I saw a couple of riders laughing and riding the scooters like it was their first time on them, plus there were 2 people riding together on 1 scooter, which was funny to see.
Fast forward that same day, I came out of a bar...and there I saw it. More electric scooters. I noticed that the scooters were just kind of...left alone there.
While I stood on the sidewalk and waited for my Uber, I got more and more curious because no one was watching these machines. I didn't want to approach what appeared to be someone's private scooter/property. Will the owner be back out in a second? Nope...no one came for it.
I even wondered if it was a new type of vehicle-sharing app or something but decided no way because it wasn't parked in a "station" with other scooters. I was used to seeing the bright red Santander bike docking stations around London city. To me it just looked like people had scooted up, parked their scooter, and walked away and left it.
No locks, nothing.
Of course, with everything, I googled it – ‘HOW TO LIME?’
Download the LIME / BIRD app. Find your nearest scooter. Walk to the scooter and unlock the bike for $1 with your app. When unlocking your bike you can see the battery life left on the bike. From here on you pay just 15¢ per minute for usage. Once you’re done, you can literally leave your bike anywhere (and take a picture of where you’ve left it to help the next user locate it). At night ‘Chargers’ come along and collect all of the bikes - re-charge them, and re-distribute around the city for usage the next day! GENIUS. The scooter companies deploy in cities, get users addicted to the rides and then show data demonstrating how much carbon emissions they claim to have saved.
Of course, I had to rent one, and absolutely fell in love. For the rest of my time there I was cruising around at 15mph on these fantastic little scooters. In a city they just work fantastically. With a range of 37 miles you can get to and from just about everywhere centrally.
In summer traffic, the scooters are faster than cars. A Metro train now delivers thousands of people an hour to the beach, who then app for Uber and Lyft rides to restaurants, bars and other attractions creating even more traffic. As well as being super green and great for the environment, they are also reducing traffic – although of course it never feels like that in LA.
I personally am in love, and I truly hope they do take over the world (or at least little old Woburn for now!).