In the spring of 2018, citizens of several US cities woke up to find something new: Thousands of electric scooters mysteriously dumped across the city without announcement.
They were launched there by a new breed of well-funded, one-liner companies (such as Bird, Lime, Scoot, Spin and Jump) that want to introduce a cheap, fast, clean way to tour cities like Santa Monica, California. Using the app, one can find any scooter nearby, recharge and be available. Point your camera at your scooter barcode and scan it and you're ready to get started.
Scooters are easy to operate and give users the freedom of a car and clean air on a bike for the price of getting on the bus.
The crazy part, said correspondent David Pogue, is that when you arrive at your destination, there is no dock or trunk to park your scooter. Tell the app you're done and just leave it to the next person to find it.
"For the first time, you put someone on a scooter and there is no one to keep smiling; I love it, "says Joe Kraus, president of Lime. Its scooters have provided over 1
"What are the problems that cities have?" said Kraus. "Pollution. Congestion. In these boxing aquariums, we move on wheels. Your scooters launch into the world. They reduce congestion by getting cars out of the way. And they are certainly incredibly carbon-efficient."
But someone has to reload all these scooters every night. So scooter companies hire an army of freelancers like William Necher in Washington, D.C.
"I managed to make anywhere between $ 100 and $ 300 a night," Necher said.
"And then you are responsible for returning them to the street the next morning?" asked Pog.
"That's a big part of it. I have to load at least a dozen in my Prius … I really call it a clown car for scooters!"
An application tells Neher where to put scooters on the streets, and he drops scooters at drop-off points.
Scooter companies insist on careful and attractive placement. "You don't want the scooters to be eye-catching," Necher said. "You do not want; you don't want them on the sidewalk, we don't block fire hydrants. "
Pogue asked," What are the benefits of this type of work, as opposed to 9 to 5 desk work? "
" There is so much independence that I have gained from it. And I've never been skinnier and my wallet has never been thicker! This is remarkable. "
What an incredible development, these scooters – good for us, good for our cities, good for the world! So why have so many cities banned them them?
John Mirish is Mayor of Beverly Hills, California, where scooters are not allowed. "They arrived overnight and [are] threw themselves into the lawns of people and all over the city," he said. "And none of the scooter companies had talked to anyone in town – they just showed up. And for most of our residents, it was rubbish.
"There are other cities that are also upset that these companies just came in. We dumped their product and we will collectively leave everyone to deal with the effects of what they do."
Yes, the impacts. People can leave scooters anywhere, and sometimes it's in the middle of the sidewalk or on people's lawns. This negligence annoys other citizens to the extent that scandal vandalism is a continuing problem.
And then there is the other kind of impact: Catherine Lehrer, Los Angeles personal injury lawyer says people have suffered horrific injuries: "Head injuries, broken bones, surgeries – injuries that will affect them all life.
"The calls I get from horsemen who are injured, they are injured when the scooter gets damaged," she said.
"Does it give you the impression that they function a lot?" asked Pog.
"A lot, all the time," Lehrer said. "The scooters die in the middle of the ride. The brakes are locked. The rudder collapses. The rudder detaches. They were never intended to be rented cars, use a commercial fleet, you know, use after use after use every day. And that's why they only have 30 to 45 days to live! "
" Do you think helmets would help? "
'Yes, I think helmets are so important, they are so important,'" Lehrer replied. "We had a helmet requirement in California."
And then came Bird, another scooter-sharing company, that sponsored a bill signed into law that removed the helmet requirement from January 1 this year.
So Paul asked, "Do you think this problem is fixable?"
"I mean, he should start with not only helmets, but also check these scooters daily," Lehrer said.
The high back of the scooter and reports of at least eight rider deaths appear to have demeaned the scooter companies. According to Lime co-founder Toby Sun, the days of throwing scooters in cities are over. "I think working with the city is very important," Sun said. "We are in the market for the long term, right? I think building that trust and a collaborative approach will give us a much longer time to serve cities and consumers. "
Pogg asked," There are problems with incidents and parking and vandals and cities that don't get it. What percentage are you sure you will go through and scooter sharing will become a standard thing? "
" My confidence level is 120%, "Sun replied. "I'm pretty sure this will be revolutionary."
This will only happen if cities agree to accommodate scooters – for example, by specifying places to ride and park them. Lime's Joe Krauss thinks it's going to happen. "That was before. By 1917, nine years after the introduction of the Model T, the last horse-drawn carriage was brought out of New York. For nine years, we took a city based on humans and horses and transformed it into an urban
"These periods of change can happen quickly when there are major problems, in our case congestion, [and] pollution, and there is a great solution. In this case Model-T. And I would argue today in the case of an incredibly effective magic carpet that you can ride around for about three bucks a ride! "
For more information:
A story produced by Amol Matre.