By the time I’d gotten the wheels, handlebar, and frame out of the giant box, I was exhausted. I still had to put together the pieces of the 39-pound electric scooter and then charge it up before I could start riding.
This was my introduction to owning an e-scooter that would live in my house and only be ridden by me.
At the start of the pandemic, smaller, two-wheeled (usually electric) vehicles had a moment. Public transit was practically dead and electric scooter rentals were either temporarily shut down or shunned. The thinking went: Better to have your own device free from others’ germs. Bike sales in the U.S. were up more than 3,500 percent in May 2020, based on data from PeopleForBikes.
But as our understanding of COVID-19 has expanded, we learned the risk of catching the deadly disease from surfaces was practically nonexistent, especially with diligent hand-washing. The CDC this week updated its guidelines about surface contamination.
Now we can finally relax about touching the handlebars that someone else used earlier in the day, and I’m ecstatic about it. Plus, all scooter rental companies have implemented cleaning protocols, and I’m never out without hand sanitizer.
While owning your own $1,000 e-scooter (Iike I did for a few weeks with the foldable Apollo City scooter) with quick acceleration up to 25 mph and a long-lasting battery (28 miles) is convenient and simple and doesn’t require an app, ownership doesn’t eliminate all problems.
It’s a big one-time investment to buy your own e-scooter (or e-bike), but you don’t have to worry about unlocking fees, mileage, time overages, or riding out of bounds. However, I quickly discovered you have to worry about set up, charging, storage, and maintenance.
“It’s super convenient to walk down stairs and grab one and go,” Tom Schreiber, cofounder of Perch Mobility, a micromobility charging company, told me in a recent phone call. For those interested in higher-end, premium features, investing in a scooter may be the move. But if you just need something to get around quickly, sharing can be easier — even during COVID times.
After I had tested the Apollo scooter for a few weeks, I tried out a different seated scooter from Razor. Again I was reminded how owning a scooter meant keeping a dedicated space for it, checking battery levels, and always looking for spots to park and lock it. With e-scooter rentals you can leave your ride practically anywhere, as long as it’s not blocking the sidewalk or street.
When I went to pick up a burrito, my scooter came in with me as I worried about it on the street.
The scooter-shares from Lime, Bird, Scoot, and others may get banged up and dinged from shared use, but the fleets are constantly monitored, updated, and even replaced. If there’s a problem with the brakes or battery, a service worker comes out to check on it or take it offline. It’s worth it to me to offload that responsibility to the pros.
Most importantly, with renting I don’t have to worry about finding space in my hallway to keep the e-scooter and charge it. Just squirt out some hand sanitizer and I’m ready to ride.