Category Archives: scooters

From Vox: eScooters Forcing Cities to Re-think Street Design

I enjoyed reading this in-depth piece from Vox about the rapid rise of dockless escooter companies and their current and potential impact on city mobility and street infrastructure. It covers how they work, how cities are responding and suggests that they are challenging cities to re-think urban street design.

“Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of scooters will be that they will force a larger discussion of whom or what we prioritize when we design cities. “I’m hoping that all of this disruption will help us think more systematically about these things,” said UCLA’s Brian Taylor, a professor of urban planning at the University of California Los Angeles.

The article shows that the majority of vehicle trips in the U.S. are less than 6 miles (59.4%) and dockless escooters have the potential to displace some of these short trips while also giving those without a car access to a low-cost, low-friction means of getting to a transit station or, directly, to work, school etc.

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When thinking about Boston, dockless escooters (and bikes) could help the “more than half of Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan residents who rely on public transportation but don’t have convenient access to rapid transit” (see The Roxbury-Dorechester-Mattapan Transit Needs Study). This all sounds like a no brainer except for the lack of safe street infrastructure for escooting and biking in these parts of the city. Many residents of Mattapan will tell you they don’t feel safe biking in the street, and bike lanes there are still scarce.

Towards the article’s end, author Umar Irfan points out that while cities are putting a cap on the number of shared escooters allowed, there continues to be no limit on the number of cars. No restrictions on the number of cars in spite of the large cost to society from automobiles in the form of vast quantities of parking spaces (taking away space for housing, parks etc.), lost lives, pollution, congestion etc. The cost to society from escooters and other similar micro mobility options will be significantly less. This calculation should lead cities to engage in massive reductions of car infrastructure in favor of wider bike lanes and sidewalks.

The article indicates that New York City seems ready to deploy scooters to help those without many transit options. Let’s hope more cities move passed their hurt feelings over brash start-up behavior and start truly taking advantage of these new micro mobility solutions to bring transportation relief to those who need it and, more generally, to improve city living.

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Get Rewarded for Your Green Commutes for #MACleanAir Week

Its Clean Air week in Massachusetts, a week during which we should think harder about our personal transportation choices and try out environmentally friendly modes. Among my circle of friends and acquaintances, no one seems to know much about this special week. There are personal benefits to obtain from participating in the Clean Air challenge: check out http://www.commute.com/CleanAir for more info. If you log your green rides through the site www.NuRide.com, you are eligible to earn a $100 Amazon gift card each day, through September 27. NuRide is also an easy and fun way to get discounts from retailers, restaurants, museums, and theaters year-round. For bikers, there is also another cool rewards program called Bicycle Benefits that gets you discounts when you bike to participating retail stores using a simple “sticker on the helmet” system.

So what efforts have I made so far to travel green this week? Aside from my usual four-block walk to take my kids to school, I chose green modes for two relatively long, 15-mile, round-trip jaunts this week. For my first trip I went from Back Bay to Alewife (Bus 1 to Central Square, then the Red line to Alewife). My second trip was more adventurous and fun as I rode my kick/electric scooter (the eMicro) from Back Bay to Newton, following the Charles River bike paths. Check out the picture I took below of an area of the Charles River Parkway that is completely hidden by trees; a pleasant escape from the sections adjacent to Storrow drive. For these commutes I get points from NuRide that I will be redeeming soon. For example, I plan to get tickets to an ImprovBoston show.

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While these commutes can be done by car in 30% to 40% of  the time I took using transit/walking/scootering,  I enjoyed these trips more than a car trip; I got some exercise, I did some reading on the train, I got some points in NuRide, I made a donation to a non-profit after chatting with a representative on Mass. Ave (I am still trying to decide how I feel about that detour).  But, are all of these benefits enough to change behavior? For most people, a 20-minute commute will almost always win out over a 50 minute one. Until public transportation gets faster in Boston, convincing many to leave their cars at home will be a challenge. Because of this reality, the Clean Air challenge is also open to drivers as long as they carpool. As an interesting side note, MassRides is looking for a ride matching service provider to partner with.

Did you get a chance to participate in the Clean Air challenge this week? Please share your thoughts about any changes you made to your transportation choices lately and what motivated you to make them.

Reduce Commute Friction with Kick Scooters (and hatch more Pokémon Go eggs)

The technology industry is abuzz with new companies promising to remove the friction of traditional ways. Transportation tech is no different. Uber and Lyft reduce the hassle of hunting down a taxi. Paying is automatic and requires no time wasted entering a credit card or managing change. New technology-based transportation services are reducing obstacles in our way of getting from A to B, but it’s important to remember that not all transportation challenges require a high-tech response. We seem to forget that walking can often get us to a destination as fast as driving during rush hour, in city centers. Kick scooters provide a faster and, I would argue, more fun way to travel within a 1 to 2-mile radius.

Relative to cars or bikes, kick scooters are likely to get you out on the street and on your way faster (assuming you have to get a bike or car out of a garage). Kick scooters are the ultimate grab and go transport. Because they can be folded and weigh only 9 to 13 pounds (referring to adult scooters), you can take them with you on trains, planes and automobiles. The ultimate in frictionless transport are light electric scooters that can be stored in an apartment and walked up and down flights of stairs without a strain (see electric scooters weighing less than 20 pounds like the eMicro). But, electric scooters are significantly more expensive than manual kick scooters, ranging from $800 to $2,000+. Adult Kick scooters, by contrast, typically cost between $100 and $300.

Folded scooter

So, if you want to add control, speed and fun to your commute, whether walking or public-transportation focused, try out a kick scooter. Even drivers may be able to use one to avoid paying steep garage parking rates in downtown centers; park further away and use a kick scooter for the last mile. Introducing: Park and Scoot, the unofficial sister to Mass DOT’s Park and Ride program.

Not all kick scooters are created equal. So, trying them out on your city pavement is recommended. For adults and teens, I suggest purchasing a scooter with polyurethane, 200mm wheels (aka big wheel scooters). Within that category, there are choices (a quick search on Amazon will make your head spin). The decision often comes down to a Razor A5 versus a higher quality, Swiss-made, Micro scooter.

After experimenting with a few scooters, I have chosen Micro scooters to power my rides. While adult Razor scooters are great for the price ($99 and sometimes less), Micro scooters will provide a more comfortable, smoother, and durable ride. Micros’ heavier material, more comfortable handle bars, and high-quality bearings make a difference. Boston-area readers can contact me to demo Micro products, including the eMicro, the Pedalflow, and Micro Samsonite Luggage. Their new Suspension Scooter is receiving rave reviews from Boston friends for its speed, comfort and adaptability to rough and cracked surfaces.

If you use a kick scooter, please share which one and for what purpose. Thanks for reading!

 

MassBike and New Balance Bring Happier Commutes to Red Sox Games

Commuting to the Fenway area during baseball season can be daunting when the Sox are in town. On-street parking is banned on Brookline Avenue and surrounding streets as early as four hours before a game, while garage parking nearby is at least $40. The Green line train stops nearby, but is packed cheek-to-cheek with fans (and commuters) at gametime: not a pleasant experience in 90+ degree weather. Though the tough commute doesn’t deter Red Sox fans – it may even be part of the experience for some – a smoother version would be welcomed.

Well now there is a nicer way to get to the game. Thanks to a partnership between MassBike (The Massachusetts Biking Coalition), New Balance and the Boston Red Sox, you can now bike to Fenway Park and leave your bike with MassBike’s bike valet service for free.

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According to the website, “The bike valet is located across from Gate D on the corner of Van Ness Street and Yawkey Way, opening 1.5 hours prior to game time and closing a half an hour post-game.” Note that they will also accept kick scooters. Yay for happier commuting to Fenway games! Other crowded city venues and event organizers should take note and hire MassBike to provide bike valet services.

 

Dissecting Boston Commuter Unhappiness

I ran a survey through Facebook ads to take a pulse of Boston-area commuter happiness. As of now, I have 25 responses: not a sufficient sample size for a scientific study of the topic, but enough to start writing about on this blog. The survey will remain open for those in the Boston-area who still want to contribute. Not surprisingly, about half of my survey participants are unhappy with their commutes.

Happiness with Commute

Source: Happycommutes.com survey conducted through Facebook, May-June 2016

Most of them take some form of public transportation. I had no bikers, one walker and four drivers, so a pretty transit-reliant population. About one-third (or 8 out of 25) consider themselves to be mixed mode commuters and combine public transportation with walking or driving.

How do you commute

 

 

 

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Review of the eMicro Electric Scooter

I finally got my hands on the eMicro from Micro Scooters a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been having a blast riding it around Boston.  I also took it to Long Island, New York over Memorial Day Weekend. As I wrote about in an earlier post, It’s the lightest electric scooter on the market at 16.5 pounds. With this new vehicle in my arsenal, I can now travel much farther with less effort. The picture below of the scooter’s box cover provides its key stats:

eMicro Box

Light does not mean flimsy. On the contrary, it is made of high quality, robust parts and it is incredibly high-tech. The scooter is motion-controlled which means that the motor engages based on the rider’s movements. To make sure the rider is ready for the motor to kick in, she/he has to be going at 3mph before the motor engages. The back of the deck is packed with sensors and when you perform a scooter kick, the scooter will continue to accelerate until it reaches a maximum speed of 15 mph. This “kick assist” technology makes riding more fun when compared to riding a standard electric scooter that is either “on” or “off”.

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New P2P Service for Unique Wheels: Rent a Segway and more at oWheelClub

Peer-2-peer businesses have permeated every retail segment, from real estate to camping equipment. In the personal transportation space, individuals have been able to share bikes (see Spinlister) and cars. But, those seeking alternative wheels (think Segways, electric scooters and unicycles) haven’t had a P2P space to go to, until now. Geneva-based oWheelClub recently launched to give individuals around the world the opportunity to rent a unique set of wheels from early adopters. P2P for these unique products makes a lot of sense, both for consumers and manufacturers of these new vehicles. The platform will allow individuals to try out expensive products before they commit to a purchase. The founder of oWheelClub also sees the service meeting the needs of travelers who want to visit a city differently and providing a new type of entertainment.

If you live in Boston, my solar panel electric scooter is now available for rent (cheaper than renting a Segway for the day BTW). So, for all of you who secretly desire to try an electric scooter, no more excuses: oWheelClub makes the transaction smooth and transparent. Check it out!

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