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If you’ve traveled recently to a major city, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen people zipping by on an electric scooter. Or perhaps you’ve almost tripped over one that’s parked on the sidewalk. As these services expand throughout major cities around the world, they are quickly becoming a viable option for both travelers and daily commuters. In this video/post, we’re going to review how to use an electric scooter service, and share some tips to keep in mind when riding one.

Why is there so much controversy with electric scooters?

These scooters have been controversial since their initial release. Many appeared overnight in cities without actually getting approval from local governments. This is similar to how Uber and Lyft would start service in a city and then have laws follow afterward. Ironically, some of these electric scooter companies are owned and operated by these ride-sharing companies.

I have mixed feeling about them as well. While they seem to be serving a need, they do seem to get a range of reactions from people. You can tell that some people really love them and depend on them as a transportation source, while others find them to be a nuisance and safety hazard. That being said, you’ll likely see one when traveling, especially since companies like Bird and Lime seem to be expanding every day.

Electric scooter providers: Bird & Lime

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll focus on two large electric scooter providers — Bird and Lime. I know there are other electric scooter companies out there, but these are the two that have the largest presence in Southern California. Bird and Lime are very similar in the way they work, and I assume that the other services operate the same way too.

Step 1: Download the Bird and/or Lime app and register for an account

To use one of these services, you’ll need to download the free app for your phone:

You’ll then need to register for an account. In addition, you’ll need to agree to the terms of service and register a credit card (or enable a service like Apple Pay). The Bird app also requires that you scan your driver’s license for verification.

Step 2: Locate a scooter

Once the app is registered to you, you can use it to locate a scooter if you haven’t found one already. You can use the app to trigger a sound on the scooter in case you’re unable to locate it at its marked location. Note the battery level listed for the scooter as well. Depending on where you’re going and how long you plan to ride, you’ll want to be mindful of the charge. For example, if you’re just going a mile or two down the street, then a scooter with a low battery is probably going to be sufficient. However, if you’re planning to use it to tour a city or go up hills, then you’ll probably want one with more charge.

Step 3: Ride your scooter

Once you’re ready to start using your scooter, you’ll need to scan the QR code on the handlebar. This should unlock and activate the scooter. You’re now ready to start riding!

The apps give you some guidelines on how to use the scooter. However, it was a bit confusing the first time we tried it. First, you’ll want to release the kickstand. To move the scooter, start pushing the scooter forward two or three times with your foot, then pressing the accelerate button with your right thumb. This scooter should start to accelerate. You can now move around and even brake using the button on the left handle.

You’ll want to stick to bike lanes wherever possible. Some places are very strict about where you can and cannot ride your scooter, so be careful. The laws governing these scooters usually follow after their release, so many cities are still trying to determine how to regulate these services.

Step 4: Complete your ride

Once you’re done riding, park the scooter, engage the kickstand, and end the ride through the app. It’s that simple!

The cost is calculated by time rather than distance, and it depends on where you rent your bike. For example, in Los Angeles, it costs me 15 cents per minute to ride a Bird and Lime scooter. There’s also a fee, usually a dollar, to start the rental on the top of the per minute cost.

Tips and considerations when renting an electric scooter

In addition, here are some things to consider if you plan to rent an electric scooter:

1. Do a quick check of the scooter:

You’ll want to do an inspection of the scooter before starting your ride. One of the scary things about these scooters is that there isn’t anyone regularly checking the structure and tires. While you can report if there’s a problem, the maintenance is more reactive than proactive. I would do a quick visual check for any cracks or loose components.

2. You can only rent one scooter at a time:

If you’re traveling with others, you might assume that you can rent several scooters at once. However, you can only rent one at a time per service. You could technically rent scooters from different services at the same time on one phone. Though in reality, the companies want and require the primary rider to rent and register on the app. I’m sure it’s because of liability, so I recommend having everyone rent their own scooter using their own phone.

3. Use extra caution when riding at night:

You’ll notice a significantly fewer number of scooters available in the late afternoon and evening. This is because the scooters usually get charged at night. If you decide to ride one at night, be sure that your scooter has a functioning front and rear light. I’ve only seen a couple of models of the scooters that have them. In general, I would avoid riding these scooters at night since you’re more likely to crash or be hit by another vehicle.

4. Be aware of local laws:

The laws are still in flux for many areas when it comes to electric scooters. It’s worth doing a quick Google search to see the current laws for your location. For example, in Santa Monica, California, you need to be a licensed driver who is wearing a helmet and riding on the road (not on the sidewalk) in order to legally operate a scooter. This might be completely different in another city, so be aware of the local laws.

5. Get a free helmet:

If you need a helmet, you’re in luck. Bird is giving away free helmets to riders. All you have to do is order one from your app and pay from the shipping.

6. Don’t share your ride with others:

I’ve seen this a few times while walking around Santa Monica. You don’t want to double up on a scooter with someone else. It’s very dangerous! I’ve even seen people do this with kids. I cringe when thinking about what might happen if they crash.

7. Use a discount code:

If you’re planning to use one of these services, make sure to use a discount code to receive a few dollars off your first ride. You can get one from your friends, or if you can use our codes:

8. Don’t block pathways when parking your scooter:

When ending your ride, park your scooter in a location that doesn’t block the pathway. It’s probably common sense to most people, but I often see these scooters in the middle of sidewalks.

9. Charges don’t always qualify as travel:

One thing that I was curious about was whether these services would show up as travel on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Since metro, taxi, and ride-sharing charges typically register as travel, I thought there was a good chance that Bird and Lime would be the same. However, it was inconsistent. Bird charges showed up as travel which earned extra points. Lime charges were classified as online shopping, so they didn’t earn extra points. Though this might change in the future!

10. Consider renting a bike or scooter from a store:

Since the scooter charges by the minute, it might be better renting a scooter or bike from a local store. These places generally charge a fixed rate based on the total time. You’ll also be able to pick the scooter or bike that you want to use and get things like helmets and locks if needed.

It’s worth noting too that Lime also rents standard bicycles. We opted for two regular bikes when we were in San Diego’s Balboa Park since we couldn’t find two scooters that were charged and working properly. While they weren’t the best bikes, we were happy with the convenience and experience!

Have you tried using an electric scooter? Do you have any other tips to share? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Trip Astute has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Trip Astute and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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