Unfortunately, the Electric Scooters Are Fantastic
Updated on June 7 at 9:52 a.m. ET
“The war is over and I have lost,” Robinson Meyer confessed on TheAtlantic.com last week. “I love Big Scooter.” But can the trendy new mode of transport overcome its essential dorkiness? And what does the boom portend for cities?
I enjoyed your recent article on the electric scooter phenomenon—I wanted to hate them, too, not least because they’ve been rolled out in the most stereotypically “techie” way, i.e., without considering the social impact they’d have on civic life. But the first time I rode one, I realized it was fun, a lot more convenient than a bicycle (especially for navigating San Francisco hills) and more than a little terrifying. After I got used to it, I found myself nodding along to what Robinson wrote: “Riding one feels like a superpower.”
As I look at them, I also remember the hoverboard craze from a couple years back. The bigger story, I think, is that these electric scooters reflect the growing influence of Chinese manufacturing on our global urban environment. Many of the electric scooters seem to be rebranded Xiaomi products, and they are part of the larger global phenomenon of dockless transport reshaping urban life. Dockless bikeshares, which have taken hold in many Chinese cities, can now be found throughout many Western cities.