Obligatory touristic pic of my Scoot at the Painted Ladies.
I love scooters.
There's really nothing like the feeling of riding around town on a zippy scooter, the wind in your face, all of your senses activated. There's something romantic and whimsical about scooters. The final scene from "Amelie" encapsulates some of that for me.
San Francisco is a fantastic town to own a scooter in. At under 49 square miles, most spots in the city are accessible in just a few minutes by scooter. And with parking at a premium, being able to just slip your skinny two-wheeled vehicle in between parked cars makes getting anywhere incredibly convenient.
The company Scoot Networks has made riding a scooter accessible to lots more people with their fleet of rentable electric scooters all over the city. Started in 2012 with just 60 scooters in Soma, Scoot Networks now boasts a fleet of 100+ scooters and parking spots all over the city, from the Marina to the Richmond to the Outer Mission.
As a longtime scooter enthusiast, I decided to give the service a try.
Similar to ZipCar, you pay a monthly fee and a hourly rate to use a Scoot. There are three different rate plans, all of which are very affordable. The middle plan at $5 a month seems ideal for the occasional rider. You can rent a scooter for $3 for the first 30 minutes, and then just $1.50 per 30 minutes afterwards.
Signing up the for the service is super simple. You fill out a quick form and then schedule an appointment with a Scoot trainer to learn how to operate your Scoot. No motorcycle license required!
Last Friday, I met Sean the trainer at Judah and 12th Avenue, not far from my apartment. There were three other dudes in my training group, all of whom seemed excited to try out the Scoot service. Sean quickly ran us through the basics of how the service works, demonstrating the phone app (for iOS and Android), explaining how the electric scooter operates, and giving us tips for riding it.
The phone app is key to the Scoot experience. Your smartphone lets you reserve a Scoot, turn it on, see how much battery charge you have, and find a place to park it when you are done scooting.
I have to say it was quite a thrill to pull out my phone, reserve one of the training Scoots, click the "ON" button on the phone, and see the Scoot light up. Since it was electric, I couldn't tell if the scooter was actually ready to ride. But a slight twist of the throttle, and the scooter eased forward, as silent and smooth as can be. So sweet!
I've ridden around the city three times now, and I can say that the Scoot experience is really solid and a lot of fun. The ability to pull out your phone and reserve a Scoot, walk over to it and zip away is really awesome. And the fact that you can choose where you want to leave the scooter at the end of your journey is really cool, as opposed to having to do a round-trip like most car rental services.
The quality of the ride varies somewhat depending on the age of the particular scooter you get. I rode both one of the older models and one of the newest ones. They both had similar acceleration and stopping. But the battery life varied greatly, and the ride on the older model was less smooth.
As a rider of a Buddy 170i, the Scoot doesn't accelerate as fast, and is restricted to going only up to 30 mph. That's fine on most city streets. But scooting down Oak Street, I definitely felt like I traffic was racing past me. Forget taking it on the Great Highway along the western edge of the city. And of course you can't take them on a freeway or across any of the bridges.
A fully charged battery lasts about 25 miles, which varies depending on how hard you ride it, how heavy you are, and how hilly your trip is. That's enough to get you to almost any conceivable San Francisco destination and back. Plus, you can plug the scooter into any standard electrical outlet to extend your ride time. (Read more about the Scoots on their website.)
Overall, I found the Scoot experience to be really fun and positive. If I didn't own a scooter, I would definitely take advantage of the service again and again. There are already a huge range of options for getting around the city — car, bike, public transportation, taxi, Lyft / Uber, walking. Scoot fills an interesting niche by providing the convenience and fun of a scooter to many, many people, without having to own one.
If you live or work in San Francisco, click here for a free one month membership to Scoot. Disclaimer: An employee of Scoot Networks is a friend of mine. No compensation was received for this blog post.