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Photo: Courtesy of Unagi

E-scooter company Unagi on Wednesday debuted a personal scooter subscription service in Los Angeles and New York that allows people to lease their own scooter rather than take their chances with a shared one on the sidewalk.

Why it matters: In the COVID-19 era, people are wary of mass transit and shared vehicles, instead opting for personal cars, bikes and scooters that are seen as safer.

Unagi CEO David Hyman says the company — which sells scooters that retail around $1,000 — saw a surge of orders at the beginning of the pandemic. But not everyone can afford that price point or wants the commitment of a large purchase, he told Axios.

  • "We're seeing a seismic shift to personal transit," he said. "Many people now prefer access over ownership."
  • Consumers can lease a scooter for $39 a month, which includes maintenance and insurance.

Context: Unagi isn't the first to test e-scooter rentals. Bird, Spin and Bolt have also rolled out limited personal rental options.

  • The difference, Hyman said, is Unagi's sleek form factor and lighter weight, making it more attractive to bring into a customer's home or carry up to a four-floor walk-up apartment.
  • Shared e-scooter varieties are built to be bulky and heavy to withstand a hard life on the street.

Yes, but: Auto subscription services have failed to take off, likely due to the high price points.

What we're watching: The extent that people opt for personal vehicles of all kinds will have lasting implications for public transit, car use, the future of micromobility modes and traffic.

Go deeper: How the pandemic will reshape cities

Go deeper

Chicago official: COVID-19 allows for transit innovation

Axios' Ina Fried (l) and Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi. Photo: Axios

The lull in transit use during COVID-19 has given officials room to experiment with public transportation for all communities, Chicago's transportation commissioner, Gia Biagi, said at an Axios event on Friday.

The big picture: Americans have shied away from public transportation during the coronavirus pandemic. But Biagi argues that declines in ridership provide a window to innovation that wouldn't otherwise be available.

Updated 40 mins ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by the Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

3 hours ago - World

NYT: Biden won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.