About six years ago, I was on a business trip to Austin. That evening, everyone was going out for dinner. It was a short Lyft ride from the hotel or a reasonably long walk. I decided to split the difference with an Uber Scooter. I scanned the QR code and then was off and running. The app used my credentials when I signed up for Uber many years ago.
Everything was great until I hit a long downhill slope. The scooter sped happily along at 20 miles an hour (a good clip). That was the perfect moment for the software to validate my credit card. You see, I had signed up for Uber, but became a regular Lyft customer after many scandals and accusations of misogyny at Uber. My credit card had since then expired.
Instead of locking me out from my next ride, the failed credit card validation caused the rear wheel to lock at 20 miles an hour. If it wasn’t for the training from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and many thousands of miles on a motorcycle, I likely would’ve crashed and been on the short end of a lengthy lawsuit. I swore off riding those death traps again.
My partner loves Dainese. Almost every time he comes to San Francisco, we visit the San Francisco retail store. One of his favorites is the San Francisco Dainese logo T-shirt. Being in Seattle, he asked me to pick him up a shirt. The store was about 2 miles away on a hot day. Google Maps suggested taking a scooter with its integration from several providers. As luck would have it, right outside the condo I’m staying in, four rental scooters sat waiting for a credit card swipe. I decided to bite. As before, the unlocking experience was seamless with my phone. That was rock solid.
However, with a push of my foot was quickly reminded how much of a deathtrap these things are. The acceleration was slow to engage, erratic, and lethargic – likely due to years of abuse by fellow riders and the environment. With no helmet and riding on the street, I also felt vulnerable. Google Maps did a good job keeping me in bicycle lanes for about half of the ride. The scooter kept up climbing the hill on Yesler Way, but the brakes barely held on when uphill became downhill. Parking at Dainese – my opinion hasn’t changed. The scooters are deathtraps. I’m surprised they are even legal in large cities. It’s half the price of a rideshare with twice the amount of fear included for free!
On the way back, I had a bag also to contend with. Right outside the “D store” were a set of electric rental bikes. The same concept as a scooter, in a bicycle format. I wanted to try it to see if it was better. Bicycles seem to be more stable, visible, and easier for me to control. The unlocking experience was equally as seamless. What the scooter lacked in pep, the bicycle more than made up for off the line.
As soon as I put pressure on the pedals, the electric motor kicked in. Navigating the bicycle near Lumen Field as the Mariners game was letting out was a challenge. Unlike a motorcycle, there is no clutch to feather. The bike either went or didn’t. That jumpiness made it difficult to navigate in tight spaces for a first-time rider. I would expect that to get easier over time.
Once out on the street, the bicycle was superior to the scooter. The bike had a basket in the front of my stuff and a cell phone holder so it was easy to see where I was going – thanks Google Maps! Unlike the scooter, the bicycle didn’t go anywhere without me “riding the bike.” I didn’t feel hills like those riding traditional bikes around me. However, I always had to be peddling to get the electric motor to engage, which inspired a lot of confidence. I wasn’t working that hard, so the sweaty and gross factor didn’t set in. Win! All I had to do was take a picture of the vehicle and then I was done!
The bicycle was a great way to navigate around the city. Both the scooter and the bicycle were about nine dollars for a 2-mile ride. In comparison, a rideshare would be about $25 each way. Since both providers charge per minute, I wanted to keep the bicycle moving as a each red light could add an additional $0.50. That adds up over many rides in the city. I do wonder if there’s a better way to price based on distance and time versus time itself.
Overall? One clear loser and one clear winner. I’m definitely looking for rental bikes when I travel in the future!