On the Instagram page “Bird Graveyards” one can find pictures and videos of shareable electric scooters being set on fire, thrown into the ocean, and being destroyed in any way imaginable. While it’s easy to laugh at these posts and go on about our lives, the short lifespan of these scooters begs the question: are they worth it?
The shareable scooter industry is polarizing in nature. Advocates claim this industry helps the environment, while also leading the micro-mobility movement of urban transportation. Yet empirically, cities where electric scooters have been instituted such as San Francisco and Brussels suggest otherwise. To the shareable scooter industry’s credit, emerging industries need time to incubate to see what works and what doesn’t. However, as of right now buying or renting one’s own scooter could be a better alternative to the shareable scooter industry.
The average lifespan for a Bird scooter in Louisville, Kentucky in 2018 was 28.8 days. While this number has improved, according to a study done at the Université Libre de Bruxelles scooters would need to have a 2.5 month longer lifespan to pollute less than other means of transportation such as public transit and the car. The pollution created by the production of these scooters makes renting or even buying one yourself a much more environmentally friendly option. It boasts all the environmental benefits of a shared scooter plus increased liability for the owner. This liability would decrease the riders’ negligence, increasing the life-span for these scooters.
Not only does this accountability make renting/buying one’s own personal scooter a more environmentally friendly option, but it keeps scooters from being carelessly tossed in the middle of ramps and places where they shouldn’t be. Cities have been working to create the infrastructure to combat this. However, if everyone owned their own scooter the problem would disappear altogether.
More importantly, the decision to buy or rent one’s scooters can also be more beneficial to the individual consumer. The cost of a ride for a scooter almost doubled in Atlanta in 2019. At around five dollars a ride, it would only take five trips in one month to equal the same amount if you had rented out a personal scooter for twenty-five dollars for a month. In addition, the consumer would have the added convenience of not having to track a scooter down. In the context of micro-mobility, those extra minutes mean a lot more if you’re only taking a ten to fifteen minute ride.
All in all, one could save themself some extra cash while being socially responsible by renting/buying an electric scooter instead of relying on shared scooters. Even if that does mean not being able to see videos of Lime scooters crowd-surfing on the internet.
Forrest is a third-year studying Economics here at UC Berkeley. He’s wrote for the Financial Literacy Column for four semesters, and he is excited to lead the column this semester as a senior columnist, determined to write articles which will save you money. In his free time, he enjoys taking walks (and hiking), eating Mexican food, and reading a variety of books. He especially likes walking through the UC Berkeley campus, eating enchiladas de mole, and reading works by his favorite author Kazuo Ishiguro.