On one of your previous trips, or even in a city near where you live, you may have come across electronic scooters sitting somewhere in the street. While they are becoming more popular in the United States, electronic scooters are already extremely popular in cities all over Europe and other parts of the world.
We have used these scooters in 15 countries, and they’ve quickly become one of our favorite ways to get around a new place.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about using these scooters – including safety, prices, and logistics – so that you’re fully prepared and comfortable next time you come across them!
What Are Electronic Scooters and How Do I Ride One?
If you haven’t heard of them or aren’t sure what I’m talking about, I’m referencing scooters that use an internal battery and thumb-triggered throttle to move on their own power. The comparison is a lot like a moped or motorcycle versus a bicycle, but clearly a lot less powerful than a motorcycle. These electronic scooters are owned by a third-party company and just sit around random places in various cities for you to use at your own leisure.
Yes, that sounds extremely vague, so I’ll try to explain. Many cities have bike sharing programs where you can quickly rent a bike and drop it off at any of the city’s bike share stations. The idea of electronic scooters is very similar, but even looser. Basically, if you see any of these scooters sitting around, you can use your phone to unlock it, pay a fee, and ride it around within the permitted zones, which vary per city.
The scooters are very easy to get the hang of and balancing is not hard at all.
To use the scooters, you need to have the application on your phone that corresponds to the scooter’s company. There are many companies within each city, and each company tends to have their own color of scooter. The most popular companies are Bird, Lime, Spin, and Wind, but you may come across others.
If you have their app and input a credit card number, you can hop on and ride at speeds upwards of 15 miles per hour to get around the city’s sidewalks. We have used all four of these and have had nothing but great experiences. Riding them is also very easy! The thumb-operated throttle is not nearly as sensitive as a moped and as a result the scooters are very easy to get the hang of. Balancing is not hard at all. The steering is smooth, the braking is done at the hands, and there is a kickstand when you’re ready to park it!
How Do Electronic Scooters Work?
The process is extremely quick and simple once you have the app downloaded and set up. From the app, you’ll scan a QR code that is on the scooter. This will send a notification to your phone asking if you want to unlock the scooter. If you accept, you will be charged the displayed unlocking fee (base rate, basically) and will be free to ride with the pre-stated rate per minute. Once you end the ride, the app will charge your credit card and you’ll be free to go. You can park the scooters basically anywhere, as there is no need to park them in designated areas in most cities.
Compared to a bike share program, this is a huge advantage. If you are using a scooter in Budapest, for example, you can ride it to the castles and park it right outside. If it’s still there when you leave, you can hop back on for another unlock fee and ride it to your next destination. You can’t guarantee that your scooter will be where you left it, but there are usually a bunch of them sitting by major tourist destinations.
What Cities Have Electronic Scooters?
Electronic scooters are available all over the United States, Australia, Europe, and parts of the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia. We have personally used them in New York, Washington DC, Budapest, Vienna, Brussels, Rio de Janeiro, Prague, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Sydney, Krakow, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Panama City, Barcelona, and London. While the companies that exist in each city will vary, all of them work in a very similar way and offer comparable rates and scooters. Most countries where we have used the scooters don’t require the use of any kind of helmet, but some countries or areas within certain countries may require them.
How Much Do Electronic Scooters Cost to Use?
This varies entirely based on the country that you’re in.
In some countries, the fees are several dollars to unlock the scooter and up to a dollar per minute of use, while in other countries the scooter costs 50 cents to unlock and 20 cents per minute to use. All of these rates will be pre-stated when you scan the QR code on the scooter, and you won’t be charged if you decide not to use the scooter.
- E X A M P L E - A typical, average scooter pricing example would be Abu Dhabi, where the scooter costs about 75 cents to unlock and 25 cents per minute of use. You are not charged for distance or level of battery consumed – only time. To use them, you must input a credit card’s information into the app.
Are Electronic Scooters Safe?
Electronic scooters are safe if you’re a safe user. As I mentioned before, most places don’t require helmets, and as a result the scooters very rarely have any helmets available for use. General etiquette is to use bike lanes and sidewalks only, and to be as courteous to pedestrians as possible. If you are on a sidewalk with a lot of people, it is clearly wise to lower your speed until you’re clear of any pedestrians. Scooters are not allowed on the road unless there is a bike lane, and even then the rules vary based on the city. To be safe, just listen to whatever instructions the app tells you – it normally will tell you where the scooters are and aren’t allowed based on where you are.
The app will normally notify you if you are going at an unsafe speed.
Some cities allow the scooters in their entire downtown area, and others allow them in very specific and limited areas. While you don’t want to break the rules and ride your scooter outside of the designated areas, there’s nothing to worry about. Like grocery stores that have smart locks on the wheels of their shopping carts, the scooters will gently come to a halt if you exit the permitted area and will not resume working unless you’re heading directly back to the permitted zone.
Hopefully now that you’ve read this post you feel comfortable riding an electronic scooter next time you come across one! They really are one of our favorite ways to get around, and we hope you love them as much as we do.