Scooters, e-bikes gain traction as virus lockdowns ease

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2020 (AFP) - Electric bikes and scooters, dismissed before the pandemic as a curiosity or nuisance, are getting fresh traction in cities seeking new transportation options as they emerge from lockdowns.

Some “micromobility” operators which cut back or shut down during the coronavirus lockdowns are now expanding to meet growing demands.

Shared mobility operators Lime, Bird and Ford-owned Spin report robust growth in cities worldwide, despite a near-shutdown of tourism, as people turn to scooters and e-bikes for commuting or errands.

“People are desperate for open air transportation where they can maintain social distancing,” said David Spielfogel, chief policy officer at Lime, which has relaunched in most of its 100-plus cities.

Spielfogel said city officials have warmed to the idea of micromobility despite a cool attitude just months earlier.

“There has been a sea change in the attitude of cities from seeing micromobility as novelty primarily used by tourists to seeing bikes and scooters as a core piece of the transportation system that will thrive in the post-pandemic period,” he said.

“Cities are afraid that people will return to cars, so they see this as a good option.”

Lime, which has agreed to take over the Uber Jump scooters and bikes, said it has seen “exponential” growth in cities such as Paris, Washington, Tel Aviv, Oklahoma City and Zurich, among others,

Spin recently unveiled plans to launch its shared e-scooters in Cologne and other German cities, and will expand in US cities including Atlanta.

Spin said it had seen weekly usage increases of some 30 percent since April with people using scooters for longer periods.

The scooters “are being used now more than ever as a utility rather than for leisurely activities,” said Euwyn Poon, president and cofounder of Spin.

Global scooter operator Bird also said business is looking up, with North American ridership more than double pre-pandemic levels.

“Around the world, an increasing number of people are trying micromobility for the first time,” Bird said in a blog post.