The electric scooters (e-scooter) thrown at street corners in many US cities are having the desired effect. Who wants to buy cars when you can ride scooters anywhere without ownership problems? That is leaving many carmakers scratching their heads.
Portland E-Scooter Riders Say Bye-Bye To Cars
In 2011, a high executive at one of the top carmaker companies told me he wasn’t worried about millennials not buying cars. His theory was that they would have children and would buy cars at some point. I was more than convinced then that those companies had not swallowed the 2008 humility pill.
It turns out that, in the end, city dwellers prefer hopping on an e-scooter they can rent by the minute over spending tens of thousands of dollars on a car. Who would have thought?
But enough cheap shots — this is the gist of a mobility change that takes a deep stab into complacent automaker business models. Many mobility startups get it. You can’t just sell cars anymore. You need to sell, rent, and loan mobility. If that sounds simple, it is a very difficult thing to change for 100-year-old companies operating on the same business model for basically that whole time. Investors and the harsh whip of Wall Street dictate how they run their industries than those looking to offer people what they truly need. That’s when startups can take advantage.
Image by BeyondDC (some rights reserved)
Photo by Derek Severson (some rights reserved)
Portland Keeps It Weird By Riding Electric Scooters
Portland is a cool city. One of its mottos is “Keep it weird.” The city is a fantastic scenery of good music, good beers, and cool urban life. And e-scooters are everywhere despite the city’s legendary rain.
The city of Portland tackled 4 critical objectives a few years ago:
1. Reduce traffic congestion by shifting trips away from private motor vehicle use
2. Prevent fatalities and serious injuries on Portland streets
3. Expand access to opportunities for underserved Portlanders
4. Reduce air pollution, including climate pollution
The Portland Bureau of Transportation has released enough data to back up the assumption e-scooter startups claim, that they disrupt mobility overall. According to The Verge, the Portland Bureau of Transportation studied the impact of e-scooters on the city during its 4-month pilot. After 700,369 trips covering 801,887 miles on 2,043 e-scooters, 62% of Portlanders view e-scooters positively, higher for those under 35 (71% favorable), for people of color (74% favorable), and for those with incomes below $30,000 (66% favorable).
Additionally, 71% used e-scooters to get to a destination and 28.6% said they used them for recreation or exercise.
Taking a ding into car ownership, e-scooters are becoming a way to replace cars. 34% of the city’s riders and 48% of its visitors used an e-scooter instead Uber, Lyft, or a taxi. 6% of car owners say they are getting rid of their vehicles in favor of e-scooters and another 16% are considering it.
Portland E-Scooter Analysis Shows Users Want Easy Mobility
What I found the most striking is that E-scooter users generally preferred riding on low-speed streets and in bike lanes, not on main streets or sidewalks. The disturbing news is that there is little to no mention of wearing safety gear or helmets. The report did show an increase in e-scooter-related injuries during the pilot period, and most in emergency rooms were considered “not severe enough to warrant emergency transport.” Finally, e-scooter injury visits were 5% of total traffic injury visits during the pilot period, with 43 reports of collisions during the pilot period.
The biggest problems the trial period revealed were illegal sidewalk riding — residents feel they are too fast for use on sidewalks — and incorrect scooter parking. E-scooters need to be left in their allocated parking spots. Lastly, e-scooter used on Portland park trails violated the city’s rules. 66% of riders said they weren’t aware of those rules.
Overall, the e-scooter pilot showed the potential of a small, light, electric, shared vehicle to move people quickly and easily without adding to Portland traffic. The city feels e-scooters have the potential to advance its transportation goals. As cities grow with more congestion, e-scooters have the potential to move people safely and efficiently.
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