The tragedy of the commons is catching up with the smartphone-activated electric rental scooters that I love to ride and people on the internet love to hate. As of last weekend there are more Bird and Lime scooters in my westside Los Angeles neighborhood than ever, but also, a lot more of them are broken.
About a month ago, Bird scooters appeared literally overnight en mass in Culver City, a quickly enfancifying piece of Los Angeles between downtown and the beach. I tried one. I liked it. I have been riding them for fun and transportation on the reg since I first test rode one in early June.
I’m sad to say that over the last weekend, two things have notably changed: another brand, Lime, has started disseminating its similar scooters in the area so there are way more machines available at any given moment. But picking one also requires a lot more work now.
Early in my Birding career, I could hop on any Bird and zip around my block successfully. Now, I’m finding malfunctions to be much more common. Flat tires, sticking brakes, shuddering frames; all problems I’d never experienced until the past few days.
Could this be because the scooters are not built for the rigors of being abused by the general public? Hmm.
I still enjoy buzzing around with the Birds and I still mostly hope they stick around, even though some people seem incapable of performing the common decency of using them in ways that don’t inconvenience others. But the reality is that you need to be careful about which one you roll out on, as of now, because some people suck.
If you’re borrowing any vehicle, be it a skateboard or a Turo car or a Ferrari, you really ought to give it a once-over before you sail off on it. But now I’m telling you, you really need to give a Bird a shake, squeeze the tires and test the brakes before you unlock it because there’s a decent chance some piece will be sketchy.
This is where the haters cheer and I get sad. If people were cool and could ride and park these rental scooters with some semblance of civility, people who liked them would ride them and nobody else would give a shit. But it only takes one person leaving them in the middle of the sidewalk and chucking them into the Venice canals to fork it all up and make them a public nuisance, which is a damn shame.
Speaking of shame, the point of this post is to shame these bad eggs into using Birds more politely. Hah! Just kidding, that will never happen. Which I guess is the actual point: the biggest obstacle these scooter rental companies have is that a few jerks can sour the public image of this phenomenon and once they piss off the wrong people, more aggressive legislation will swoop in and strip them off the streets for good.
Is there a viable solution? Maybe. I don’t have time to figure it out. But perhaps the good commenters of Jalopnik will step up and think of something. Eh? Ehh?