It is worth beginning with a note that I am terribly risk averse, and therefore … not a ton of fun. When Ford micromobility subsidiary Spin first launched a fleet of electric scooters in my hometown of Pittsburgh last summer, my immediate instinct was very old-man-yells-at-cloud.
Youths took over the streets and sidewalks, racing around downtown and the North Shore on the orange scooters. In the hillier parts of the city — in case you don’t know anything about Pittsburgh, that’s most of the city — they were a stationary menace, abandoned on sidewalks, under bridges and in the middle of alleys.
I wrote off the Spin scooters as an inevitable consequence of city living and vowed to avoid the cursed conveyances. Around the same time, two things happened: I started editing a lot of Rebecca Bellan’s contributions to TechCrunch, and I began dating a guy who swears scooters are fun.
Founders of micromobility startups made plenty of good arguments for why fleets of electric scooters and bikes make sense. First and foremost, they are not cars, which is great for improving air quality and ameliorating rush-hour traffic. They can aid in solving the “last-mile problem” — getting people from the last stop on the subway or bus line to their home or work. They’re in theory more affordable than owning a car or even hailing a taxi or an Uber, solving obvious equity issues for low-income individuals.
I wasn’t buying it — they struck me as dangerous, rickety and unsustainable on multiple levels. Venture capitalists disagreed, dumping millions into the likes of Bird and Lime.
If you’ve been reading TechCrunch, you know what happened next.