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Dockless Scooters Leapfrogging the Bikeshare Industry

A columnist in Austin is reminded of the early days of ride hailing companies. How did that work out for taxis?
April 16, 2018, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Dockless Scooters

Austin American-Statesman columnist Ben Wear writes on the rapid rise of of "dockless scooters" in Austin, where discussion about the trendy and controversial new form of mobility recently hijacked a "dockless bike share community forum" in the city. The city is in the process of creating a dockless bike pilot program in the hopes of regulating the proliferation of private companies thata have spread in other cities.

Like it or not, writes Wear, the city has had to suddenly shift its focus to the electric scooters leading up to this pilot. "About 50 black-and-white electric scooters belonging to Bird Rides Inc., a 7-month-old California company, suddenly showed in South Congress, Zilker and the East Austin entertainment district. City officials scrambled to talk with the company’s representatives, and then said they will impound any of the scooters that sit in city right of way for two days or more."

"However, the city Transportation Department also quickly decided to add scooters to its pilot discussion," writes Wear. "Call this one a draw."

Electric scooters are just the latest in a series of business and technology innovations that threaten to render municipally owned bikeshare companies, in Ausin's case B-cycle, obsolete or ineffective.

Starting sometime this summer, after the city kicks off a dockless bike (and scooter) pilot authorized earlier this year by the Austin City Council, B-cycle’s 500 or so bikes will soon be outnumbered about 5-1 by LimeBikes, Ofos, MoBikes, Jumps and V Bikes, just to name a few — and, it appears, some scooters as well. And they will be much cheaper to rent than a B-cycle, which carries a $12 charge upfront for the first hour, plus $4 for each 30 minutes beyond that time.

Part of the appeal of the dockless scooter, Wear notes, is the electric assist feature. The B-cycle bikes still require all the pedal power one can muster.

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Published on Sunday, April 8, 2018 in Austin American-Statesman
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