Apr 22, 2020 - Economy & Business

How electric scooters will factor into a post-lockdown world

Kim Hart, author of Cities
Data: Lime; Chart: Axios Visuals

A big question is whether people will still want to ride scooters — or any shared vehicles, for that matter — after we emerge from coronavirus lockdowns.

What they're saying: On the one hand, plenty of transportation experts think scooter riders will think twice before picking one up after it's been handled by previous riders.

  • On the other hand, micromobility enthusiasts say scooters will provide a critical way for people to get around while maintaining distance from others and can fill gaps while struggling public transit systems recover.

Lime's experience in South Korea could offer a glimpse of what will happen when we return to more typical travel patterns.

  • The company has continued to operate a few thousand scooters in Seoul and Busan during the pandemic, and it says scooter use has nearly returned to pre-crisis levels.
  • In a survey of 65 Lime scooter riders in Denver, people anticipated similar levels of car and micromobility use after the crisis, with reduced use of transit and ride-hailing and increased walking and biking.

Meanwhile, rival Bird says it will begin rolling out a new feature that will let customers ride its scooters at a slower speed to get more comfortable if they are new or out of practice.

  • The company says it aims to help riders who may be turning to scooters as an alternative to other transportation modes that make it harder to stay far apart from other people.

The bottom line: Transportation will look different in every city after we exit lockdowns, and how quickly people embrace shared and public transit modes will probably depend on how severe the outbreak has been in their areas.

  • Car use is expected to go up in most places, at least temporarily, until cities assess public needs and roll out new pilot programs with new rules of the road.

Editor's note: The story has been updated with details about Bird's new scooter feature.

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