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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Scooter companies largely survived, and in some ways thrived over the past year, despite setbacks early on in the pandemic — and that momentum is expected to grow.  

Why it matters: Social distancing, coupled with hybrid and permanent work from home arrangements and worker relocation patterns have changed transportation needs and cities' attitudes.

  • Initial use of U.S. e-scooter and bikeshare systems dropped off in early 2020, peaked in the fall, and fell again in late winter.
  • Demand is expected to come back strong over the next year, according to a consumer survey by McKinsey that projected e-scooter rides to grow about 12% over 2019 levels.

Driving the news: New York City's pilot program is starting soon and makes the case for micro-mobility as an alternative, cheaper mode of transport.

  • 3,000 Bird, Lime and Veo e-scooters are expected to be available in the East Bronx starting in the early summer for a pilot program, the city announced this month
  • “Here, in the East Bronx, many people live in transit deserts with public transportation far away from their homes. The Bronx was disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, making the need for affordable, accessible transportation that allows safe distancing for public health, extremely important,” Council Member Fernando Cabrera said in a statement. 
  • New York City’s decision on any permanent shared-scooter system would be hugely impactful as it could become the biggest U.S. market for scooters

Around the country: Cities that experimented with pilot programs before the pandemic are considering the option again.

  • Raleigh officials are in talks to bring back scooters after companies Bird and Lime abandoned plans in 2019 due to “burdensome regulations.” 
  • Chicago’s transportation department is looking into permanent options.
  • Scooter companies may also benefit from working with real estate developers to design living communities with micro-mobility options.
  • Topeka and Hartford are among cities debuting e-scooter pilots as well.

Yes, but: Scooters are still sensitive to weather and economic changes. 

  • After seeing sky-high valuations prior to the pandemic, scooter companies like Bird and Lime had to make drastic cuts to their workforce when the shutdowns began.

What to watch: Cities are expected to reduce permit fees for scooters and other micro-mobility options as some places like San Francisco shift away from cars.

  • As costs to produce scooters comes down and companies identify merger opportunities as a way to operate more efficiently, the ability to sustain scooter-sharing profits will enable further growth, according to McKinsey.

Go deeper on New York City's scooter debate.

Go deeper

Updated 34 mins ago - Science

Nor'easter slams East Coast with flooding rain and powerful winds

A residential area in Middlesex County as floodwater from the nor'easter covers streets in New Jersey on Tuesday. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A monster storm was slamming the Northeast with record rainfall and powerful winds over Tuesday night — causing flash flooding that resulted in people having to be rescued in New Jersey and New York roads to close.

Threat level: All of southern New England westward to New York City and northern New Jersey was under the threat of flash flooding and coastal flooding from the nor'easter through Tuesday night into early Wednesday, per the National Weather Service.

39 mins ago - World

Blinken speaks with Sudan prime minister after his release

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok. Photo: Ebrahim Hamid/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke on the phone on Tuesday evening with Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok after the military released him from custody.

Why it matters: Hamdok’s release was a result of pressure on Sudan’s military leader General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan from the U.S. and other countries but also from the different political parties in Sudan and massive protests in the streets.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Brazil senators vote to recommend criminal charges for Bolsonaro

Brazilian senators vote on probe into President Bolsonaro's handling of pandemic. Photo: Gustavo Minas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate committee Tuesday voted to approve a report recommending President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with a raft of criminal indictments, including crimes against humanity over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, per AP.

Why it matters: Bolsonaro has become the face of a right-wing approach to the pandemic that includes repudiating vaccines and masks and resisting lockdowns and other mitigation measures. The Senate report holds him personally responsible for half of the country's 600,000 deaths.