For weeks now, I’ve read articles blaming The Bird Scooter for everything from congested sidewalks to world hunger.
But last weekend I was down in San Diego where hundreds of thse things can be found along the Boardwalk in Pacific and Mission Beach.
The concept behind the scooter is simple. Like Car2Go, you download an app and look for a nearby scooter. When you see a scooter close to you, you walk to it, then “Unlock it” using a QR code. Then you ride it where you need and “Lock it” so someone else can use it. Locked scooters are almost impossible to roll anywhere and make a beeping noise that alerts that someone is trying to steal it.
The boardwalk along Pacific Beach and Mission Beach is pretty long. It could take you 40 minutes or more to walk from a bar to your hotel. But with The Bird, you just hop on, and cruise at a nice safe 8-12 MPH, cutting your time by about 66-75%. It costs $1.00 to start it and $0.15 a minute. So it’s roughly the cost of a short Uber ride, but way more fun.
After using it for a weekend, I think the haters in San Francisco are ridiculous. I was able to navigate the scooter through pedestrians, bikers, unicyclists, skateboarders, roller bladers, and other scooter riders. My only near accident was caused by a 5 year old on his non-motorized scooter who decided to come at me head on while in my lane. But it was easy for me to stop the scooter and dodge the kid at the last minute.
Also, you can ride remarkably slow and still keep your balance. In fact, you can literally slow to walking speed if you see someone you know and want to travel at their pace, or see a group of pedestrians going 5-wide and blocking the entire path.
The downside: Even on a small hill, I was pretty uncomfortable, and my repressed teenage memory of crashing into a tree while trying to ride a skateboard down a hill in Bellevue suddenly re-surfaced. So, I don’t know if I’d come down from 6th to 2nd downtown. But for getting around Wallingford, Greenlake or Capitol Hill, these things would be great.
Bikers will yell and scream that you should just ride a bike instead. But really, if you are going out to dinner, do you want to get sweaty riding a bike? No, a scooter is effortless. And a bike is actually much larger than The Bird. You take up way more room on a road or bike lane.
So, what I learned is that the scooter is an effective form of short-form travel in flat areas. I’d like to see it become more prevalent up here. Ignore what the haters in San Francisco say. If they are so worried about being a pedestrian and getting hit by a scooter, then they should jump on a scooter.