Joining the evolution of transportation options is our old friend—the scooter. You may remember them from the days of the Razor scooter around 2003 (talk about a throwback), but now they’ve made a return as the latest form of micro-mobility.
Dockless scooters work just like dockless bikeshare so we feel comfortable skipping a tutorial. Instead we rounded up our team to share their thoughts on their experience with these electric scooters that have been popping up in the DC region.
First Impressions of Dockless Electric Scooters
Maggie | Marketing Director
I tested out Bird on a “too hot to bike, I just can’t do it” kind of day and rode with my fellow colleague, Keara, from Rosslyn to southwest DC. In total, the journey was 5.3 miles and I wasn’t as sweaty as I would normally be biking! It did have a “remember the good old days” vibe as I had a kick scooter as a kid. I also enjoyed that feeling when you can press the throttle down and fly down a big wide sidewalk.
However, it felt super wobbly at first and I thought I might fly over the handle bars every time I went over a bump, so I’m definitely glad I was wearing my helmet. I felt so wobbly that I couldn’t signal like I would on a bike, so that felt unsafe to me.
It’s also pricey at $1 just to unlock and then $0.15/minute after. Kind of stinks when the dockless bikes are just $1 for 30 minutes. I had a promo code for $5 off, but still had to pay $1.39, so that’s $6.39 for a commute home, which is costly when compared to other options like Metro or Capital Bikeshare.
I wouldn’t use this for anything over a mile to two miles max—my five-mile trip was way too long. Bird scooters weren’t always where they said they would be on the app. Keara and I both had to walk to two different spots before we found one. I'd consider using it for a short jaunt to a happy hour spot, but that’s about it.
Keara | Property & Development Services Program Director
I rode a Bird scooter home 5.5 miles from Rosslyn to Navy Yard via the National Mall. The app was really easy to use, the throttle mechanism is intuitive, and it’s really fun to ride! The dockless element is great since I’m able to basically travel door to door and park it in front of my building. Also, it’s nice that I don’t break a sweat riding on a scooter compared to biking.
It took some time to get comfortable with balance and speed. It’s a little scary going down hills or over big bumps. I definitely don’t feel like I can take one hand off the handlebars to adjust my sunglasses or signal to cars behind me.
I would be open to use it more often if it’s available, probably more for short trips. I think I can commute home faster on my bike or via Metro than scooting. It’s also more comfortable traveling on wider, quieter streets than busy roads even if there is a bike lane.
Frequent Dockless Electric Scooter Users
Dag | Business Development Manager
I take Bird scooters to and from work in the mornings and evenings when I can find one for rides shorter than two miles. It usually gets me to my destination without breaking a sweat going up Wilson Boulevard. I really wish the scooters could create a cup holder for my water bottle or to–go coffee mug.
Dockless parking for the scooters is great because I can ride them to my door step. Taking a scooter won’t get your work clothes dirty as opposed to a weather-worn bike seat, which is a plus for me. Also, the battery life can handle 18 miles of rides on a full charge, and they’re easy to ride on sidewalks when necessary.
Initially, I could rarely find one near the office but now they’re everywhere. I don’t feel safe unless I have both hands on the scooter as small potholes can be very dangerous. The scooters are a bit expensive compared to other modes.
Claudia | Business Development Manager
I’ve used Bird in Arlington for a number of random rides no longer than two miles on average. I’ve even used it to bring groceries home once. In addition to being fast and convenient, I like that scooters give me another way to feel connected with the space around me. I’ve had side-by-side conversations at red lights with people on bikes asking about the scooters and that’s not something I’ve gotten with other modes. This doesn’t happen all the time and you can definitely ride undisturbed by curious strangers.
On the down side, the scooters don’t have baskets to carry things when I’m not wearing a backpack. They also don’t have tail lights although I can see why it’d be difficult to incorporate into the design. A light on the back wheel would be too low to the ground and hard to see, so it’s up to users to have reflective strips or lights on their shoulder or back to stay visible to people behind them.
Signaling on a scooter is tricky; having both the throttle and brake on the right hand might be better to leave the left hand free for signaling. Scooters are more sensitive to small bumps and unevenness in pavement than bikes with their larger wheels, so you notice more when sidewalks need repairs. Also, going up hills drains the battery faster and you might start to lose power (you haven’t bested me yet, Southgate Road!).
Without intending to, I’ve become a frequent scoot-er, but only for short distances connecting between neighborhoods, and only if I really need to (it does add up in cost). I’ll stick to Capital Bikeshare on the trails and the bus for my very hilly commute for now.
Jack | Planning Specialist
I've used Bird, Lime, and Skip around DC and Arlington for commutes, business trips, and non-work related trips. For one to three-mile rides, it's easier than biking or walking, faster than most buses, and more fun than any of them!
My personal bus-to-Metro commute is $3.75 between Dupont and Rosslyn and takes at least 20 to 25 minutes. The same 2.6-mile trip with a scooter is about $3.50 and takes between 15 and 20 minutes.
However, the scooters can be hard to find, especially later in the day. The ones I do find often have insufficient battery to take me to my destination. This could be solved by allowing more scooters throughout the region. Our office doesn't subsidize the use of electric scooters so I wouldn't use them very often to commute. I would use dockless scooters more often if these barriers to ride were addressed.
Join the Evolution
The convenience of ending a trip right at your destination is hard to beat, especially since riding the scooters take less effort and are quicker than even some of our favorite modes of transportation. The scooters could become fixtures around your business since Arlington, Virginia has a culture of adopting innovative and exciting ways of doing everyday activities.
Be informed and share expert information with your employees or tenants navigating the sudden plethora of creative modes by contacting us. Arlington Transportation Partners can customize information, hold a workshop, or meet with you to help you stand out from the crowd.
Photo Credit: Reema Desai/ReemaDesai.com for Arlington Transportation Partners