Recently I travelled to the beautiful city of Copenhagen with a friend to explore the annual Copenhagen Architecture Festival.
During our first day, we were quick to learn that traditional means of transport such as taxi’s or cars were a touch on the expensive side. Perhaps this was due to government intervention? By keeping taxi prices rather high, it gives more of an incentive to switch to bikes and lower the cities carbon footprint. Uber instantly sprang to mind upon arrival into Copenhagen Airport but to my surprise, they’d bid "farvel" or farewell to Denmark back in April 2017 after failing to persuade the government to change their laws on taxis to accommodate its business model.
As we travelled around, it was hard to miss the sheer quantity of bicycles and electric alternatives on the roads in comparison to fuel burning vehicles, even in central Copenhagen. For this reason, we decided to join the hype and find a pair of electric scooters to use on our journey.
Our ride of choice was a "Lime Scooter" with a top speed of 14.8 mph. Lime is a transportation-rental company based in the San Fransisco. It runs bicycle, scooter, and car-sharing systems in various cities around the world including Denmark. The systems offer dockless vehicles which users find and unlock via a mobile app which tracks the location of available units via GPS. Lime's charges typically start at $1/1€ for a 30-minute ride on unpowered bicycles, while electric bicycles and scooters cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute.
You start by downloading the app, signing your life away to their T&C's and adding your sacred card details to your account. Once you have an account set up, you top up as little as £10 to your account which can then be used very similarly to a pay-as-you-go phone contract.
Once you're ready to take on the city on your ridesharing scooter, you first need to find one or in my case a pair. This was relatively easy considering we were fifteen minutes out the centre and being pessimistic I presumed there would be slim pickings that far out. How wrong I was! Upon opening the app, I was greeted by small green scooter logos across the whole of Copenhagen which were no more than a few minutes’ walk away.
The scooters are kept charged by local businesses who are paid to charge them overnight by Lime which is very efficient. In the morning they have fully recharged and available for use again. It is notable that many are still available across the city overnight but some may have reduced battery levels.
Now, all this may seem great but there are some teething issues with the new electric scooter craze. The average lifespan of a scooter belonging to a Lime competitor called 'Bird', was 28.8 days. Once an electric scooter has been released into the urban wild, its life might best be compared to that of a medieval serf, backbreaking labour followed by the possibility of an ignominious end.
Scooters that reach their expiration date after being worn down merely by inclement weather, constant overuse and gigantic potholes are counted as lucky ones. Many others can expect their final moments to be undeniably barbaric.
Some face death by bonfire, and others are flung into the ocean or tossed from the top of parking garages and bridges, shattering on concrete sidewalks or disappearing into murky waters. Scooters have also been intentionally run over by trucks or torn apart, limb by electronic limb, by angry drunks and rage-filled teenagers.
I’ve Included a link to a suitably titled YouTube video “BIRD/LIME SCOOTER DESTRUCTION COMPILATION” to show you the daily struggle for survival they go through.
Some anti scooter campaigners claim their destruction is a form of righteous rebellion. The scooters are not “last mile” transportation solutions, they argue, so much as the greedy tentacles of Silicon Valley brands wrapping themselves around public sidewalks. Others consider the scooters symbols of a troubling shift from public to “private” transportation.
In my personal opinion, I can sympathize with the locals who find hordes of scooters sometimes dumped on pavements outside their shops or occasionally lying in the road. Not only can they be hazardous to pedestrians but also an eyesore sometimes. However, I believe this is city dependant. For example, Copenhagen has very well structured cycle lanes, but other countries do not. This means in less bike-friendly countries, pedestrians share the pavements with those ankle clipping millennial scooter riders or risk weaving in and out of traffic.
In conclusion, these small scooters are proving to be a big hit across the world. The success in Copenhagen is possibly due to its notoriously flat terrain which puts little strain on the scooter unlike other countries with hilly or mountainous landscapes where the model isn’t necessarily transferrable which adds to the frustration. Here at Artisan Electric, we stand beside our electric comraderies but there is still a long way to go before these small electric alternatives fit seamlessly into our world.