Getting Around DC: E-Scooters
E-Scooters can be found all over Washington, DC (as well as many other urban areas). There are several companies available now throughout the city – so which are the best to use?
DC offers a myriad of public transportation, so it may be surprising for some that e-scooters have become so popular. Some rent them for convenience while some rent them for the fun of it (they are surprisingly fast!). E-scooters can be great, but also dangerous if not ridden with caution.
I started renting scooters on my way to work when I discovered that I could get to the office in half the time it took me to metro – due to changing lines – at the same price. Since then, however, prices have gone up for some e-scooters which has led me to change up my routine.
What I didn’t understand prior to renting e-scooters is that you can’t really walk around and grab the first scooter you see. First of all, you have to download e-scooter apps before renting a scooter. This is inconvenient the first time (you have to add your CC information, sometimes driver’s license info is required, etc). However, once the app is downloaded it is fast and easy to rent scooters – you just scan the QR code located on the handlebar.
Secondly, not all scooters you see are rent-able. I have attempted to unlock countless scooters that ended up either already reserved or dead (the companies have to collect the scooters to recharge them). The best thing to do is to check a couple e-scooter apps to see where the closest available scooters are located.
The main danger of e-scooters is that most people underestimate the speed. Most e-scooters go at least 10mph. Considering there is only an “go” botton and a brake button/handle, it isn’t really possible to control the speed. I quickly learned that you have to be prepared to brake at any moment – in case of an unexpected pothole or pedestrian. Brakes are also necessary when going downhill or turning. I’ve almost wiped out on a simple right-hand turn! Those things are not designed to be going any direction other than straight when riding at 10mph.
The brakes also differ between models and companies – some have a button brake, while others have a handle-brake. It’s really important to make sure you know where the brakes are before you start riding! I also try to test out the brakes before fully riding, as I have rented scooters in the past that had issues with braking.
There is a bit of confusion regarding whether scooters should be ridden in bike lanes or on sidewalks. Scooters are banned from sidewalks in downtown Washington, but this is not heavily enforced at the moment. Parking has been banned in certain areas – including the National Mall. Scooter apps will either not allow you to park in a no-park zone, or will charge you a fee for parking there. Despite all this, I still find scooters in these “no-park zones.” There’s a new legislation proposal to increase regulation on e-scooter use in the area.
I have tested out four of the main e-scooter rentals in DC to compare price/service/speed. There are countless 4-letter companies out there (Bird, Lime, Spin, Skip, Bolt, Jump…), but I’ve only tested four because I don’t see the other scooter brands often enough to warrant downloading another app. Based off of my personal experience, these are my reviews of each company:
Lime was originally my top choice for e-scooter rentals. Until recently, they had one of the most competitive prices. Their scooters are consistently faster than other brands, averaging 11-12mph rather than the 10mph average of most others. You will find that these scooters have taller handlebars than other e-scooter brands. Unfortunately, Lime e-scooter prices have gone up. While a one- mile ride used to cost me $2.20 – 2.35, the price is now averaging between $2.90 – $3.15 making it significantly less competitive. The perk of Lime is still the speed, and one-mile generally only takes 8 minutes.
I think Bird may have been the first e-scooter rental available. Unfortunately, in my experience Bird scooters are the slowest and most expensive to rent. I only rent Bird when I can’t find any other scooter in the vicinity. You have to pre-load a minimum balance of $10 to Bird before renting, which is also inconvenient but not uncommon in e-scooter rentals. My same one-mile ride averages $3.50 – $4.50 when using Bird and takes me more than 10 minutes.
Jump (by Uber)
Jump has the best price because they don’t have the $1 unlock fee, you just pay per minute. A one-mile ride costs an average of $2.40 – $2.60 and tends to take the same amount of time as Lime, give or take. The speed of the scooter varies. Recently, I have noticed the newer scooters have an auto-brake when going downhill. This is obviously a safety feature, but it is slightly annoying because the ride becomes choppy. For some reason, I have rented Jump scooters on several occasions that ended up not functioning once unlocked. The good thing is the company is very responsive and I have received refunds any time I’ve had an issue. I also find that their app is not as fast to lock/unlock scooters compared to the other companies.
Spin has a competitive price, and the scooters are a little above average speed. A one-mile ride usually costs between $2.50 – $2.80 and takes about 9 minutes. Spin requires pre-loading of funds, like Bird. This irritates me only because the balance of $10 is never going to end evenly, so then you have to keep loading $10 more. I would rather pay each ride as I go. There is no benefit to pre-loading unless a company offers a discount for it.
I see these all the time but have never actually rented one.
I tried e-scooter and it was a lot of fun. Kind of… Scary at first but once you get you get a hang of it.. it’s awesome! Most of what we have here in my country are ebikes though but I think it’d be great to scooters too as it’s easier to navigate.