As I took a wobbly ride on a rented electric scooter earlier this year, my first thought was “this is not for me…”
I couldn’t figure out where to comfortably put my feet, and I found myself gripping tightly onto the handlebars as the tiny wheels struggled with the gravelly ground. I generally felt pretty self-conscious trying to weave between pedestrians and cyclists on the mixed-use path.
Fast-forward a few months, and I now use my own electric scooter almost everyday. I can’t remember how I coped without it!
The change occurred because I moved house; previously I could walk to work in around 30 mins, now it would take around an hour, entirely uphill. I wanted a convenient, fast and cheap form of transport for my commute, since I don’t own a car.
I considered a bike, but after a short trial I realized that I am just not cut out for a 3 mile uphill cycle ride first thing in the morning.
I considered an electric bike, but I live in Berkeley where bike theft is rife, and the idea of having to search for secure parking everyday and remember to remove the battery wasn’t appealing.
So I reluctantly revisited the electric scooter idea. After a short learning curve, I now absolutely love it and hope more people will consider getting one!
My scooter of choice is the Xiaomi M365 Folding Electric Scooter, which at the time seemed like the obvious winner in terms of both quality and price. There may be other good options available now.
It can reach speeds of up to 15mph and the battery lasts for about 18 miles. You charge it with a convenient charger that plugs into a standard power socket. I charge mine in my apartment overnight; I think it takes roughly 5 hours to get fully charged.
The scooter reduces my commute from ~1 hour to ~15 mins. And (once you get used to where to put your feet and learn to relax your grip) it is just an incredibly fun way to get to work. I literally look forward to it everyday.
It’s also reduced my Uber and Lyft usage, and made trips to places that previously felt somewhat burdensome into a breeze. I can nip out to the grocery shop, meet for coffee around Berkeley, and even get to medical appointments in Oakland with no problem. I once even went from San Francisco Embarcadero all the way over the Golden Gate Bridge, and almost got to Sausalito before it ran out of charge!
One of my favorite features is being able to fold the scooter in half and put it in the trunk of a car. This means I don’t need to plan out exactly how I will get home, since I can always scoot somewhere and then decide to get an Uber back if it is too dark/cold/far. This is one of the main advantages of a scooter over a bike — I used to cycle everywhere but getting home after an evening event was often a pain.
The folding feature also has the advantage that you can usually take it in with you wherever you’re going. You can pick it up and carry it for short periods, and it can easily fit under a desk or a restaurant table so you don’t need to worry about finding a secure place to store it. Having said that, one of its disadvantages is that there isn’t really a way to lock the scooter up in the same way you can lock up a bike. You can’t scoot somewhere, lock it up, and then go for a hike. You can’t scoot to a mall, lock it up, and then go shopping. You kind of have to take it with you, which isn’t always convenient.
The scooter comes with an app that allows you to configure certain things, including keeping the red rear light on whenever the scooter is on, which I use. I also enabled the setting that rings your phone if someone tries to use your scooter without permission, but I’m not sure if this would do much to deter theft since it’s not exactly hard to pick the scooter up and carry it away without even turning it on.
The built-in lights are really convenient — another thing that I found annoying about cycling was remembering to keep my lights charged. With the scooter, I never have to worry about this, the lights are there when I need them and they do a pretty good job of lighting my way. I do tend to go a bit slower when it’s dark as I can’t look as far ahead as I normally do, but it’s not a big deal.
One final advantage of the scooter is the ease with which I can hop on or hop off. I generally use the road when I’m on my scooter, but I can also walk it across pedestrian crossings, or dismount quickly if there’s a situation that looks unsafe.