Commuting Via Scooter
August 22, 2013 7:43 AM   Subscribe

I have a short (3.5 miles) commute, and in considering my non-driving options, I've discovered electric scooters. What are the advantages, disadvantages, and best practices for using an electric scooter for commuting?

I'm specifically talking about this and this. It seems like it could be a good option, but I wanted to hear from mefites who commute via scooter (especially these slower ones that qualify as electric bicycles). Is it too goofy? Is it practical? Thank you so much for your help!
posted by superlibby to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, the first practical question would be WHERE would you ride it? Too small for the street, not allowed in bike lanes, and too dangerous for crowded sidewalks.
posted by raisingsand at 7:50 AM on August 22, 2013

OP's profile indicates she lives in Austin, TX where it has been legal to ride electric bikes in bike lanes since 2000.

I spent seven years commuting by standard bicycle where such a thing was the norm. The only disadvantages were weather (which was surmountable with appropriate gear; we did not have excessive cold or snow in winter), and illness (simply being too sick or tired to ride).

YMMV depending on the culture, streets and weather in your area of Austin. I would imagine the climate is not unfriendly but I don't have the necessary knowledge or experience to comment.
posted by rocketpup at 8:06 AM on August 22, 2013

Best answer: Depends on your location (Austin) and your local laws - might be better of with an electric bicycle.

Around here, if a sidewalk or paved path is four feet or wider, bicycles, skates, and human scooters can be used (this includes the TRIKKE). Non-street legal powered conveyances can be used, unless the path is specifically marked. Additionally, equine traffic always has the right of way, even when not posted. Anything with registration/plate requirements may not convey along those paths. Riding mowers and golf carts are grey put permitted if the path borders an arterial road.

Electric vehicles (cars, bikes, golf carts, electric bikes, scooters) are legal on non-arterial roads with a posted speed limit of 35mph or lower. Electric carts (golf) and non-plated electric or motor vehicles are never allowed on arterial roads (streets rated at 40mph and higher). Bicycles and assisted bicycles, along with license-plate scooters (probably not yours) are allowed on arterial roads, bike lanes or no, but are subject to standard traffic/bicycle laws. clarification: Scooters plated or no are not allowed in bike lanes here - but I've not seen tickets only death-cheaters ---- eek.

TL:DR - read up on all the rules and don't trust the sales person. Get down to TDOT and ask.

As for practical - how is the rain in Austin? Where will/can you park at work? I've got a bike rack here, under cover, but I'd never use it; I got permission to park my bike inside the office. Where will/can you park at home?

What's your backup when it rains or snows (I don't know Austin)? Do you have a car or alternative? My plan is to get a ride home (I have a similar commute and neighbors who work in the building) and could get a ride or a bus to pick up my car and swing back for the bike and/or kids.

Are there shower facilities at your work? Do you have an occasional or regular customer-facing role? What about spare clothes? I know you work with kids, as your past posts indicate a teaching position - what ages? Is there a good place at school to park?
posted by tilde at 8:08 AM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

If it stops working will you be able to carry it home walking, would it fit in the trunk of a cab? My understanding is that electric bicycles can at least be peddled as normal bikes if the power stops working.

I think there is a significant safety issue as car drivers are often unaware of normal bikes and many are still not able to anticipate how scooters and e-bikes act on the road (speed, legal right to be in the road/bike lane).

As to the goofiness, yeah, the scooters definitely look a bit goofier than the bikes in my opinion.
posted by saucysault at 8:26 AM on August 22, 2013

Do look into your local laws, and carry a copy with you. My (ex)wife rode a scooter in DC, and the laws were ridiculously specific when it came to what kinds of scooters are allowed in bike lanes, and whether or not they could be parked on the sidewalk, down to the diameter of the wheels, and parking enforcement officers weren't always familiar with the rules. She never had any particular safety issues, and she drove all over town, in busy traffic.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:00 AM on August 22, 2013

Do buy a name brand, and do consider where the repair shop is, and how you'll get there.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:01 AM on August 22, 2013

My coworker rides an electric scooter with pedals. She bought it specifically to help with the steep hill approach to the office, but expressed dismay at the amount of pedalling required to get it up the hill. She might have been just as well or better served by a comparably priced conventional bicycle.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:40 AM on August 22, 2013

The ones you linked to seem to have similar ranges: 50-60 minutes per charge, top speed 15-18 mph --- but you wouldn't be going at that top speed, would you? So that 50-60 minutes is something to seriously keep in mind, as well as how several reviews mention the difficulty with hills.

Where and how would you recharge it --- does the battery come out or do you need to run a cord out to the bike? Does it recharge on regular household current or does it need something else; and is there someplace at work you could recharge if needed?

Not too sure I'd trust leaving one of these out of my sight, even with a locked chain; is there a more secure place, both at home and at work, to secure it, or could it be brought indoors?

Because of the speed, you couldn't use it on main roads; are there decently-paved, decently-lit roads between your home and work (for dawn/dusk travel, if not night time)?

If you were thinking of replacing your car entirely, could you do all your errands like grocery shopping, picking up dry cleaning, etc. with one of these? Can you install a basket or panniers, or would that make it impossible to fold up the bike?
posted by easily confused at 9:53 AM on August 22, 2013

A neighbor of mine got a similar Currie model when he was recuperating from a torn Achilles tendon, and used it to get back and forth to the grocery store. He sold it just as soon has he could walk again.

The principal disadvantages were stability (tiny wheels, low to the ground) and charging; there's a charging port instead of a removable battery, so you need to wheel it somewhere within about 6 feet of a wall socket.

We have a very popular multi-use trail and it's legal to ride electric or human-powered scooters on it, but he still got the occasional hard time from spandex-clad bicyclists. He avoided hills.

I ride a Kalkhoff electric-assist bike. I don't use the assist for speed, but rather to help get me over a notorious steep hill and to help get up to speed at intersections.

With a short commute like yours, I would go for a standard bicycle or electric-assist bicycle before I would resort to an electric scooter. You're probably going to find them to be more dependable, more accepted on the trails and roads, and easier to secure and maintain.
posted by Kakkerlak at 10:51 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Personally, I wouldn't bother with an electric bike or scooter, a regular bike would do just fine and it will be lighter and easier to maneuver when not riding (up stairs, in buildings, etc).

3.5 miles is a 20 minute bike ride, tops, even as a novice. 10-15 depending on stoplights once you are biking for a month or two.
posted by zug at 11:29 AM on August 22, 2013

Not scooter advice but. Be very careful on roads that have a think gap between dirt side road and the main street. I got my bike stuck in that very thin line and tripped. Can be very nasty if you are not careful.
posted by ladoo at 12:17 PM on August 22, 2013

Response by poster: I ended up going for the Razor Ecosmart -- I'm a pretty inexperienced cyclist, so this seemed like a good compromise. I got the thing, and it's a freaking blast - will update when I've commuted more on it, but so far, so good. I look a little silly, but it could be sillier. Combining this + riding the bus seems to be working well! Thank you all for your thoughts.
posted by superlibby at 4:52 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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