Should we add electric scooter rideshare to the mix? Electric scooter rideshare companies think so, and a Minneapolis City Council committee will vote Tuesday to decide whether scooter rideshare startups should require licences. (Update: Hours ahead of the vote, rideshare firm Bird debuted in the Twin Cities; more info below.)
California-based scooter companies like Bird and Lime are already popping up in U.S. cities. Their products are similar to Nice Ride, the bike-share network that spread throughout the Twin Cities beginning in 2010, but, ya know, for electric scooters. After paying $1 to unlock the scooters, users are charged 15 cents per minute for eco-friendly rides that can last for 15 miles at speeds up to 15 mph. Then, since the battery-powered vehicles are dockless, riders can stash 'em just about anywhere.
Apps are involved, so you could say Bird and Lime are #disruptive or possibly even #gamechanging. Silicon Valley venture capitalists are very much on board; Bird -- which investors are touting as the Uber of scooters (and definitely not the disastrous Juicero of scooters) -- is currently seeking a $2 billion (!) valuation.
"In the Twin Cities, it’s clear there’s an urgent need for additional transit options that are accessible, affordable, and reliable for all residents and local communities," Bird spokesperson Nicholas Samonas says. "Birds are a great solution for short 'last-mile' trips that are too long to walk, but too short to drive. Right now, more than one-third of cars trips in the U.S. are less than two miles long. Bird's mission is to replace these trips -- get people out of their cars, reduce traffic and congestion, and cut carbon emissions."
Not every city buys that sale pitch. Denver and San Francisco have banned scooter rideshare services until more regulations emerge. The #ScootersBehavingBadly hashtag chronicles the messy reality of allowing users to abandon scooters all over urban streets.
Kevin Reich, chairman of Minneapolis' Transportation & Public Works Committee, seems open to the idea of scooter rideshare.
"We are trying to balance the innovation and the new shared economy, different ways of moving around in the city," he tells the Star Tribune. "We want to embrace that, but we also want to make sure that it doesn’t have the negative impact with getting into our right of way, creating pollution, other issues that could come up with not having a framework."
It's unclear what impact scooters zipping around bike lanes and sidewalks will have on Minneapolis, but Bird isn't waiting for city regulators to sort that out:
It's true: Midway through the writing of this blog, Bird announced its arrival in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
"Birds are now available across downtown and north Minneapolis, as well as downtown and Frogtown in St. Paul," Samonas says. "As ridership grows, we will adjust the number of Birds and areas they’re available based on rider demand."