Dumb Bikes

20 Random Thoughts About Dockless Bike and Scooter Share

A list of thoughts as random as the bikes strewn about my neighborhood.

  1. The scooters are super fun. Like SUPER.
  2. I was a menace the first time I tried a scooter. Seriously dangerous. Had to bail three times before I figured out the brakes. Bicyclists in Saint Paul’s bike lane said cuss words at me.
  3. I had a Nice Ride membership, but let it expire since the dock I liked went away.
  4. The Lime bikes are awkward to ride.
  5. I enjoy checking the app more than I should to see if scooters are nearby.
  6. There doesn’t seem to be a good way to report damaged bikes if the person who used it isn’t the one who damaged it (unless you are a nice, conscientious person who does this sort of thing and you have the app).
  7. There are rightful concerns about accessibility of sidewalks.
  8. I brought a bike home and parked it in front of my house. Don’t do this. It was there for five days and my neighbors asked questions.
  9. I brought a scooter home and it was gone in less than five minutes.
  10. The farthest I have taken a scooter is five miles. It makes me nervous that I can’t take my hands off the handle bars to scratch my nose or signal a turn because I am not proficient yet (see thought #2).
  11. There needs to be a membership structure to bring down costs. This is kinda expensive. If it’s expensive it will just be a lark rather than transportation.
  12. I am curious how and when (if?) the bikes begin to find a pattern or rhythm. Do they end up clustering in certain areas? Like cow paths or desire paths, do bikes create their own docks?
  13. When I’m riding a scooter people either sneer at me or laugh. I guess I don’t understand the sneering.
  14. The scooters and Saint Paul’s pot holes don’t mix well.
  15. I like just finding a bike when I want one and leaving it at my destination (mostly, see #8), but am concerned about clutter or perceptions that they are messy.
  16. Co-workers who never could figure out Nice Ride (the how or the why) are using the scooters. Some have tried the bikes.
  17. I doubt the scooters are a net environmental gain, like Lime seems to imply. They have to be picked up by people in vehicles nightly to be recharged and then “redeployed.” No car trip was really saved.
  18. I appreciate that they were deployed in all areas of the city. I also understand why it is more difficult to spread docked bikes equitably, rather than just efficiently.
  19. The bikes tip over in wind that isn’t even that strong. After the storm the other night they were all on their sides.
  20. I hope that people understand that this is new and is still figuring itself out and don’t condemn it outright. Dockless bike share (and scooters!) are promising, but there are some kinks to be evened out.

Day five and my neighbors were asking questions.

Dana DeMaster

About Dana DeMaster

Dana DeMaster, MPP, is a program evaluator and researcher for human services programs who lives and bikes in Saint Paul. When she’s not analyzing data, she can be found rabble-rousing for neighborhood bike improvements in Saint Paul, playing Legos with her two children, or sewing practical things. You can find some of her other writing on the Grease Rag and Wrench blog.

15 thoughts on “20 Random Thoughts About Dockless Bike and Scooter Share

    1. Mike Hicks

      I’ve had pretty good luck with them being used. I’ve ridden two away myself, but others (4 or 5 trips?) have mostly moved around (except for one I took to the local co-op, which I think is still at the bike rack facing the rear-side parking lot)

  1. Ryan

    These are 20 good thoughts (thoughtful thoughts?)

    I’ll add one of my own: I live near the A Line between the Randolph & St. Clair stops. NiceRide neglected to put any bikes near the A Line for the two years it’s been open (plus more years before of the high-frequency 84). Lime bikes were sitting next to the A Line stops on day one, and I think that’s pretty neat.

  2. Mike Hicks

    Regarding #17, you may be right, though it’ll be interesting to see how the recharging schemes play out. I saw someone on a Bird scooter two weeks ago who was transporting a second scooter by turning it 90 degrees and plopping it atop the footboard of the one he was riding, so these don’t need to be transported by car. I suppose the ideal would probably involve someone using a bike pulling a trailer full of scooters as they collect/distribute them.

    1. Scott Walters

      A flock-master in downtown Saint Paul had four Birds balanced on a rear bike rack as he was gathering them for their nightly feeding session. He was simultaneously on his cell phone, having a conversation with Bird central about some maintenance issue with one of them. All in all, it was a pretty impressive balancing act.

  3. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    Thought on scooters and sidewalks: just like bikes, they are fine on the sidewalk as long as the operator realizes and behaves as though they are a guest in pedestrian space, keeping speeds near pedestrian speeds and passing with great care.

    Haven’t really seen that from the people I’ve seen scootering on sidewalks, but they are new and everyone is learning.

    1. Dana DeMasterDana DeMaster Post author

      I agree. I will note that it is really strange to ride them in the street. I can’t quite wrap my head around it. I’ve been biking in the street for a long time and have no qualms about going ridiculously slow on a bike on a busy road (so obnoxious!), but I’ve pretty much kept my scooter adventures to residential streets or bike trails. A little in Lowertown where there is not a lot of car traffic on the streets. I don’t know why it makes me so uncomfortable. Part is skillz, I guess. I know how to ride a bike, but am pretty unsure on a scooter. Haven’t figured out how to safely take my hands off the handle bars for more than a second to signal turns, for example.

  4. Karen

    Everyone raving about the fun scooters are, have any of them ridden an ebike – because they get similar reaction, “they’re fun” and people can get farther on them, more comfortably and take hand off handle bar and carry things easily.

    I really think in any town with decent bike infra, it will be share ebikes that will really make this model work – if as noted, cost structure is reasonable.

    I think public ebike system free to low income people (via qualification for other things like Met Transits system for $1 rides) and at some flat cheap annual fee to all other users would be great.

    Seattle is finding ebikes are way more popular don’t need nearly the amount of balancing as regular bikes that always flowed down hill (see this comment above “I brought a scooter home and it was gone in less than five minutes”).

    With some charging infra, they would need way less truck hauling than regular Nice Ride bikes have.

    Also a public funded ebike systems could have etrikes, cargo bikes etc to serve far wider clientele than escooters.

  5. Lou Miranda

    Interesting thoughts. I have seen a bird scooter or two out in my first-ring suburb, but I have not had a chance to ride one yet.

    We should keep in mind that, much like Uber, these rides are being put out here at costs that are probably not profitable. So only if they take off and become very successful will they hang around, because then companies could probably charge enough to make a profit. As with any venture capital-based system, they are looking to be dominant if not monopolies. So expect prices to rise over time.

  6. Scooter Rider

    Disagree with #17. After a full day’s-worth of bird trips, several birds (might) share a car trip to and from bird-hunter’s home. That single round trip by car might enable a hundred scooter rides.

  7. GlowBoy

    My own thoughts:
    1. They are indeed super fun to ride, and convenient.

    2. They go too fast. All the Lime scooters I’ve ridden top out around 18 mph, at least according to the built-in speedometer. 15 mph, or even 12, would be plenty of speed – as fast as most people are on bikes in the real world – and vastly safer. Unfortunately, the “throttle” is an on-off switch, leaving you no middle ground unless you want to pulse and glide the whole time.

    3. Most people have figured out it’s okay to ride them in the street like a bike. Not sure if municipalities’ laws have caught up with this, though. (Having moved here from Portland, which gave scooters, skateboards and skates the same legal status as bikes nearly 20 years ago – without any resulting mayhem – I hope they get on this).

    4. If you’re used to dockless bikeshare (I’ve ridden dockless scooters and bikes in multiple cities this year), these e-scooters are VERY expensive to ride. $8.50 for the first hour is a lot, compared with $2 for LimeBike. As fun as these are, for most rides I’d rather save my pennies and take a non-electric bike.

    5. Unlike dockless bikes, which end the ride when you lock them, the ONLY way to end the ride on a Lime scooter is through the app. If your phone runs out of juice, or you drop it in a puddle and don’t have a bowl of rice handy to dry it out, or you have a glitch with the app, you find yourself with the meter running and a scooter you can’t walk away from. The Lime app really drains your phone’s battery in a hurry too, so this is a real risk.

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