Some people love them for their convenience, the idea of navigating overcrowded cities without driving fossil fuel-burning vehicles and ease of use, other hate them with passion blaming them for ruining their cities and causing all kinds of accidents, on the roads and on the sidewalks. Who’s right? Who’s to say? The only thing certain is that scooter-sharing system is not going anywhere, especially in major cities where short trips have to be made quickly and at a low cost.

Scooter-sharing services have come onto the scene back in 2012. The pioneer company was Scoot Networks and they launched their service in San Francisco. These days, most of the scooter-sharing companies in the world are based in Europe, most notably in Berlin, Paris and Madrid, but the biggest and most successful companies are based in the US.

These scooter-sharing services are more popular in big cities, where the traffic is highly congested and the road laws are very strict. Electric Scooters have no carbon footprint, meaning they’re cheap to own and register in eco-friendly cities. In some big cities, residents don’t even have the space to store a scooter.

Scooter Sharing Companies

It’s no secret, the scooters came to the scene overnight. With no permission. The guerilla business practices that some scooter sharing companies use and their motto of “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission” isn’t a smart long-term plan. This further tarnished the reputation of electric scooter riders everywhere.

Local governments are starting to impose limits, rules and regulations on these scooter-sharing companies. There have been many complaints from citizens and city supervisors about how these rental scooters are littering the sidewalk, and that the scooter riders are not following the rules and riding outside the bike lane. This led to lots of scooters being impounded and hefty fines for the scooter share companies.

Many cities in the US have “exiled” some scooter sharing companies due to breaking the law. This is nothing new, sadly, as most governments around the world are having trouble legalizing electric bikes, scooters and hoverboards. Some countries and states classify them as mopeds, while others have no special classification. Other countries, states and cities outlaw electric scooters completely, banning them from any public place, including roads, highways and parks. You can only drive one in your backyard in these places, or on private land.

lime dockless scooters

Lime

Lime, formerly known as LimeBike, is a scooter-sharing service based in the San Francisco, California. Electric Scooters aren’t the only thing they rent out, they also rent bicycles and cars. Their vehicles are dockless, and any user can use any vehicle with a mobile app. The mobile app also tells you where the nearest vehicle is via GPS and radio. Lime’s vehicles are colored in lime green, which is a genius business move by all standards.

LimeBike was founded in 2017, and skyrocketed to a value of $1.1 billion in 2018. Lime has had some controversies with the San Francisco government and has since received cease-and-desist letters from many other cities including Indianapolis, Reno and other cities. Some of their scooters were faulty and there are stories that their brakes automatically locked up at high speeds, which really damaged Lime’s reputation.

While Lime had some controversy, the number of satisfied customers far outnumbers the ones that didn’t like the service, so you shouldn’t worry. The news outlets overblow any issue that happened in the past, but the statistics say that these are relatively safe ways to travel, despite the riders being untrained and often helmet-less.

Which scooter does Lime use?

Lime uses custom scooters, that aren’t made in the USA. They use a customized version of the Segway ES2, which is really similar to the Xiaomi Mi M365. Compared to the Xiaomi, the Segway ES2 only has the front electronic brake and solid tires.

While these specs simplify logistics, they’re less comfortable for the rider. Does this mean that Lime Scooters are worse than the competition? Not really, they’re all around the same ballpark in rider comfort.

What we didn’t expect is that the Segway ES2 has a great suspension system though, beating the Xiaomi by a long shot. Despite having solid wheels, the springy suspension rode like a dream.

bird sharing scooters

Bird

Bird is a scooter-share company based in Santa Monica, California, and it was founded in 2017. Bird operates in over 100 cities around the world and has enjoyed tremendous success since they’ve started out. In 2018, they’ve been valued at $2 billion, which is no small feat for any company in the world. Besides, Bird reached $2 billion in record time, proving there’s a big market for last-mile solutions.

Bird is also guilty of launching its service in San Francisco before obtaining the required permits, prompting the city to file a cease-and-desist order. Bird’s guerilla business practices were punished. Their “scooter Blitzkrieg” wasn’t a good idea and was quickly met with fines and lots of backlash not only from the government but from the people on the streets as well.

There are many stories of people parking illegally, just dropping their rental scooter on the pavement or the road, and even some dissatisfied customers throwing their scooter into a river or on a tree. We urge you not to vandalize the electric scooter no matter how much you might have disliked it.

Which scooter does Bird use?

Most of the scooters that Bird rents out are Ninebot Segway ES2 and ES4 and the Xiaomi Mi M365  (read our review here), but they’ve announced a new proprietary model called the Bird Zero.

In the beginning, the Xiaomi Mi M365 reigned supreme, but is now retired and slowly being replaced by the Ninebot ES2. The Xiaomi was a logistics nightmare, with exposed disc brakes that were sometimes cut by vandals and air-filled tires. The Ninebot ES2 (and ES4) are far simpler choices that are easier to maintain and fix.

Bolt

Bolt is formerly known as Taxify, and it’s a transportation company based in Tallinn, Estonia. It was founded in 2013 by a high-school student named Markus Villig. Electric scooters aren’t the only thing they work with, as their Bolt mobile app lets people to call a taxi or a private driver. They have plans to launch a food delivery service in Europe and Africa, and become a competitor to Uber Eats.

Bolt operates in 30 countries around the world, but the first place where they unveiled their new dockless electric scooter service in Paris. Strangely enough, Bolt wasn’t involved in infamous controversies. Might have been the simple fact that they asked for permission first, and then launched their operation.

Which scooter does Bolt use?

While they didn’t share the specific info, or the make of their scooter, we’re guessing it’s the Ninebot ES2 or a customized version of one. It’s a relatively rugged, dependable scooter that’s really easy to use.

Electric Scooter Sharing vs. Other Modes of Transportation

Compared to taxi rides and bike sharing, Scooter-sharing companies boast a lower price per mile. The biggest benefit of sharing an electric scooter is that when you’re done with it, you just leave it on the sidewalk for the next customer. No fuss, no need to lock it down, and you pay over your phone or credit card instantly. It’s extremely convenient.

Most people found out that riding an e-scooter is a lot of fun, and got hooked on the micro mobility world. Bike-shares are getting eaten up by scooter-shares due to the higher speeds and ease of use. Most electric bicycles are pedal-assist, meaning that you still have to pedal to your destination (although you won’t get tired compared to a regular bicycle). Scooters are throttle-operated and don’t require any effort from the rider.

dockless scooters in la

Future of Dockless Scooters

We have lots of nice (and not so nice) things to say about these companies, but it’s a well-known fact that electric scooters aren’t cheap and that these businesses struggle to be profitable. There are speculations that their core business model is designed to fail. Most scooters you see out on the street don’t bring any profit according to ARK Invest.

These companies are incurring lots of costs, and there’s a lot of overhead that they need to be mindful of. The venture capitalists are keeping these companies afloat, similarly to how Tesla Vehicles aren’t a profitable company if you’re looking at how many cars they’ve sold. But how long can we expect venture capital and state subsidizing to last?

The tech is new, and the doors are open to a new world of micromobility; this might just be the short hard time until the companies really start being profitable, or it might spell an eventual doom for these scooter sharers. The E-Scooter might go the way of the bike shares in China and some parts of the USA – there are massive graveyards of bicycles that couldn’t break through and couldn’t turn a profit.

An another hurdle that scooter-share companies are going against is that people that love riding an electric scooter would rather buy one of their own instead of renting one. Having your own electric scooter saves you the trouble of having to find a charged shareable scooter.

Conclusion

Scooter sharing services have had a bad reputation, and they deserved it. This doesn’t mean that the end customer will get cheated out of a fair ride, and in most cases the law enforcement will rather go after the company than the rider. This doesn’t mean you can ignore the laws.

We urge all our readers to be mindful of the traffic laws, wear a helmet and ride safely, no matter where they are or what service they use. But don’t be scared off trying an electric scooter out. If you love it (and can store it in your apartment or garage), we’d still warmly suggest you buy your own. It’ll pay itself off in the long run.

And, if you’re serious about using a scooter, always wear a helmet! A foldable helmet is a pretty good idea, as it can easily fit into your backpack.

While we don’t feel too optimistic about these companies and their bottom line, they’ve done a good job providing a ride and you shouldn’t pay too much attention to the cloud of negativity you’ll find online. If you’re someone who’s never ridden one, try it. You just might love it. Just stay safe.