My Car-Free Week With Lime and Bird

Recently I spent the better part of a week in San Diego. Pacific Beach and Mission Bay in particular.

There could not be a better place to use scooters. All of ever-sunny Mission Bay is lined with a safe, paved 7+ mile path with no adjacent cars, and Pacific Beach is wide, open, and calm with scooters on every corner in the core parts of town.

With a few exceptions, I never needed a car and those gaps were filled with Ubers and Lyfts. But of course, it wasn’t perfect.

First, range anxiety was an issue. You’ll laugh if you’ve only taken short hops, but using scooters as my main transportation created a fair amount of range anxiety. Twice I was stranded near SeaWorld. I quickly pivoted from Bird to Lime, as Limes have twice the range. (I started with Birds, because they seemed cleaner and also have better balance without secondary batteries raising their center of gravity). With a fully charged Lime, though, I could get anywhere — even all the way to the airport! But with the smaller batteries on a Bird, I often would have to switch scooters for longer trips, especially when they were only partly changed.

A lot were broken or vandalized. Boy this was a bummer. Once when I ran out of juice, it was right next to a beautiful new, 100% charged scooter. But the top was ripped off and it wasn’t functional. Another time, one couldn’t connect to the network. Etc. etc. Not a huge deal if there are 5–10 scooters there. A big deal if there is only 1 scooter around. In one particular location, there were 2 beautiful, fully charged Birds. But both had been vandalized intentionally, and I had to walk fairly far to find others.

Stopping off from my Lime for a Watermelon Kombucha

The utility faded vastly in low density parts of town. Even this would have been OK absent vandalism. But walking 10+ minutes to get to a lone scooter listed as live and available — and finding out it’s been vandalized and won’t function — was a huge bummer. Roughly speaking, scooters work best where there are also Gyms in Pokemon Go. And like Pokemon Go, the fun fades fast in less dense areas.

Some folks on scooters exhibited unsafe behavior — but only on the beach path, one small part of town. Overall, 95% of the scooter usage I saw was safe and friendly. But the software coming to slow scooters down in very crowded areas is needed. “Bird Gangs” of 4–5 would grab a pack of scooters and fly down the crowded beach path at max speed (15 mph). That was too much. But 8–10 mph would have been fine. One Bird I rented couldn’t go past 10 mph. That was about right for a crowded area.

Birding to my Avotoast. Pretty, pretty nice zero-ish carbon trip.

But overall in perfect conditions, it was glorious. I even made a 10+ mile trip — smiling all the way. No car, no need. And just 2 Ubers/Lyfts the whole week.

Yes, I’d never use a scooter near our insanely crowded office in SF. And yes, I don’t get how it all works in snow.

But try something in perfect conditions, and sometimes, what it does is help you see the future.