Well, here’s an example of maybe too much and maybe too fast. We have been watching carefully as standout start-ups in the eMobility world are making their mark in cities across North America. Obviously, we just love the technology. Not to mention the positive impact on commuting and the environment that eVehicles, like those offered by these breakout companies like Bird Rides and LimeBike, bring to the community.
These companies bring eMobility to the masses by providing relatively low-cost rentals of eMobility products like electric bicycles, electric scooters and other eMobility vehicles. This is a good thing. One only needs to look at Europe, China and other countries to see that we are just now catching up to the big demand for eMobility transportation and recreation that this technology brings. So, why a controversy?
Of course, new things are always controversial as they invite change: something that is not always easy for an individual, community or even a society. Some do not take the challenge well:
“Somebody whizzing along at 15 miles an hour, that’s a symbol of entitlement and arrogance,” said Fran Taylor, a retired medical reporter. She called the scooters “a plot of the young people to kill off all us old farts so they can have our rent-controlled apartments.”
I think Fran Taylor has a good sense of humor and her quote is emblematic of a resistance to change and new things. I’ll bet she had wink in her eye and a smile on her face when she made that statement and deep down, she really wants to try one. But, let’s face it, people going 15 miles per hour every-which-way and hordes of eScooters strewn all over the downtown area and transportation hubs are not the best for everyone.
Travis VanderZanden, the chief executive of electric scooter company Bird Rides, seems to like the highly successful and lucrative “UBER” business model. If you have a look at the website, it has a lot a similarities to UBER, and that’s also a good thing. But here’s the big difference: at the end of the ride for an UBER car, the car (and, for now, the driver as well) move on to the next rider and at the end of the day, the car goes home with the UBER driver. When the ride is over, the vehicle disappears.
Not so, apparently, for eVehicles, especially eScooters, rented from one of these budding transportation companies. At the end of the ride, the eVehicle is left right where the ride ends- wherever that may be. There’s the big difference and there’s the big problem. Mr VanderZanden believes that it is a question of society catching up with the technology:
Mr. VanderZanden said given how enormous a social shift he believes his scooters are, he was not surprised it ruffled some feathers. But people would eventually adjust, he said. “Go back to the early 1900s, and people would have a similar reaction to cars because they were used to horses,” he said. “They had to figure out where to park all the dockless cars.”
Well, okay, but back in the early 1900s, folks found parking places for their newfangled automobiles and most of the horses had a place to go to eat and sleep after the rides. Mostly because the riders owned them and assumed a responsibility for them. And then came parking tickets for those who did not. Regulation. Had to happen.
We would do it much differently.
Rather than apologizing later, we believe that the only way to a robust and sustainable eVehicle sharing program anywhere, is to ask permission first. Make a plan. Anticipate the negatives and evaluate the overall impact that reactive regulations can have on the industry and on the bottom-line. After all, unless they are returned to a dock or designated location, these eVehicles will wind up in someone’s neighborhood at the end of the ride. Maybe we need to ask the neighbors first.
Okay, so this is certainly not the popular business model that has recently dominated the transportation world:
“If there is something familiar about these scooter companies’ strategy of just showing up in cities without permission, that’s because that has now become a tried-and-true playbook for many start-ups. In its early days, Uber, the ride-hailing giant, also barreled into towns overnight to launch its service and only asked for forgiveness later.”
But look at the downside: lots of people having lots of anger about lots of scooters and eBikes left all over the place. Sounds like low-hanging fruit for legislation and regulation to me. And, be careful what you ask for.
We have had quite a number of inquiries about a bike-sharing program and are committed to making sure that we ask permission first. Okay, maybe we don’t look so good to venture capitalists, who want a quick and good return on their investment, because we take the time and effort to sit down with State, County and Local government officials to fully explore the benefits and burdens of implementing an eVehicle sharing program. We take the time. We’re slow. But that’s okay.
For us, this is much more than just optimizing profits. It is a community partnership that deserves the best we can give it. This is one reason we are so involved in legislation and regulation in our State and across the country. This is all too important not to be.
If you are a town, college, university, or any other government or private entity and are considering an eVehicle sharing program, please give us a call (873-500-0197) and certainly feel free to comment here on our blog. We would love to share our thoughts on the best way to implement one of these great programs.
We are grateful to be involved in advocating the best eBike legislation for the industry as well as for the safety and well-being of our communities. We like to make sure everyone is considered, especially the neighbors, before the first eVehicle-share hits the pavement.
What do you think?