Beaton column: I Bird, Lime, Lyft and Spin, ‘cuz I was born to be wild
The Aspen Beat
Getchur your motor runnin’,
Head out on the highway,
Lookin’ for adventure,
And whatever comes our way.
— Steppenwolf, 1969
I’m so hip that I used kick scooters. You’ve seen them, the annoying little vehicles about the size of a skateboard with a motor in the base and a handle on top.
They won’t get you from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. Heck, they won’t even get you past the roundabout. But they do get you the mile from one side of Aspen to another.
For that, they’re great. They’re what Silicon Valley calls a “disruptive technology” and what the rest of us call a “game changer.” They make more sense for you, me and the planet than hauling around 3,000 pounds of steel, glass and rubber everywhere we go.
For the benefit of my two or three readers who are less hip than I, here’s how they work.
First, you download an app to your phone. If your phone is permanently connected to a wall in your house, or you don’t know what it means to download an app, you should skip this column. Your hipness is hopeless.
The rest of you can download an app from one of the scooter companies such as those named in the title here. You set up an account through the app using your credit card.
When you click into the app, a map appears showing the location of scooters available for rent in your vicinity. In most downtowns, it will show half a dozen within a few blocks. You walk to one.
Once there, the app invites you to unlock the scooter by pointing your phone camera at a code on it. Voila!
For a ride of a mile at ordinary speeds (more on that below) a dollar or two will be drawn from your account. There are no property taxes, gold-plated bus stops, registration fees, vehicle inspections, drivers’ licenses, sobriety tests or taxpayer-subsidized housing.
Predictably, government types hate these things.
When you’re done riding, you just tell the app you’re done and abandon the scooter on the sidewalk wherever you happen to be. The app closes out your ride and draws the fee from the account you set up. It then registers the scooter’s location and makes it available for another user.
Some people are so hip that they abandon the thing on the beach to rust after scooting to their daily protest against straws in the ocean, or something. Hundreds have been found half buried in the sand.
I’m hip, but not that hip.
To make the scooter go, you put one foot on it and gently kick off with the other, a little like a skateboard. The machine senses the motion and the electric motor engages.
You balance and turn it like a bicycle. When you stop, you step off with one foot. To go again, you kick off again.
Two controls are on the handle bars: a throttle and a brake. Your right hand makes it go, and your left hand makes it stop. Unless you want to sacrifice either going or stopping, you won’t have a free hand to carry a grocery bag but you can use a knapsack or shoulder bag.
As for going, the going gets good. Top speed is 15 miles an hour. That doesn’t sound like much, but on a pedestrian sidewalk it’s alarming — it’s as fast as a person running hard.
As for stopping, it stops pretty good, too. But only if you squeeze the brake. If you don’t, it collides with whatever is in its way at the speed with which it was going good.
If you don’t think that hurts, sprint into a brick wall and see how that feels. Or if you have an appetite for lawsuits, sprint into a person on the sidewalk.
I haven’t tried one down a steep snowy road, but I imagine something like greased white lightning.
Which brings me to a problem — where to ride them. You have three choices. One choice is the sidewalk, but you’ll have to keep the speed well below the 15-mph maximum to avoid those lawsuits.
The second choice is to use car lanes. Bad choice. It’s too slow to keep up with traffic, and automobile drivers won’t respect your presence any more than they respect the presence of bicyclists — especially if you make faster progress than they do.
The best choice is bike lanes. Since real cyclists won’t be caught dead in bike lanes, maybe we can finally put those lanes to good use with scooters.
Speaking of being caught dead, the safety of these things is approximately equal to their legality — which is to say they’re wildly dangerous.
But hey. Like a true nature’s child, I was born, born to be wild. You can be, too.
Glenn Beaton’s column appears monthly in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and at postindependent.com. Correspond and subscribe at theAspenbeat@gmail.com.
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