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Electric Scooter Uptake 'Quite Remarkable,' Researcher Says Of Micro-Mobility Data

Vatic Kuumba, of Providence, R.I., prepares to ride a Bird electric scooter in downtown Providence Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (Steven Senne/AP)
Vatic Kuumba, of Providence, R.I., prepares to ride a Bird electric scooter in downtown Providence Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (Steven Senne/AP)

From Austin to Denver to Cambridge, Massachusetts, dockless electric scooters have hit cities across the country. Earlier this summer, the transportation research firm Populus published data on the rise of micro-mobility.

Here & Now’s Peter O’Dowd discusses the so-called “micro-mobility revolution” with Regina Clewlow ( @ReginaClewlow), CEO of Populus, and why she thinks electric scooters from companies like Bird are the way of the future.

Interview Highlights

On why she calls the uptick in dockless electric scooters in major cities a “micro-mobility revolution”

“One of the interesting findings from our report is that the adoption of these new services has been quite remarkable in terms of how quickly people have started using them, and in fact, overall adoption of new mobility services is accelerating.

“There are interesting network effects. Because so many people are accustomed to using their cell phones to call an Uber or Lyft or now unlock a car-sharing vehicle, the idea of being able to unlock a dockless electric scooter feels quite natural.”

On why people dislike the scooters, and a Los Angeles Times report that residents in Venice Beach were setting them on fire and burying them at sea

“We found that 70 percent of people in major U.S. cities view [the scooters] positively, so perhaps, you know, those stories represent the 30 percent who don’t. And, what we did find, which was really interesting, is that there is a range of opinions across cities, with San Francisco having the lowest positive perception, but still, 52 percent of people viewed them positively.

“I believe a lot of people were caught off guard, so not just cities, but I think that there are actually plenty of people within the private sector, in the investor community, who missed the scooter wave in terms of investment. So, I think a lot of people were caught off guard.

“I do also think that part of the narrative or the story is that cities were caught off guard by Uber and Lyft, and so in many ways, this is in part a reaction to the rapid growth of Uber and Lyft and that many cities didn’t actually do anything over many years, and so now that there are smaller devices that are a lot easier to regulate — because you can impound them and collect them much more easily — their cities are reacting much more quickly.”

On her experience riding one of the scooters in San Francisco

“I rode one in Golden Gate Park … I thought it was great. I would use them on a more regular basis if they were available and if it were safer — if I felt safer riding a bike or a small electric mobility device on the street.”

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