By Jeremiah Johnson, CityMetric, Sep 9, 2019
“Shared dockless electric scooters, or e-scooters, transport riders over short distances in cities. Ride share companies promote them as an environmentally friendly choice that reduces dependence on cars.
To properly assess these claims, it’s important to consider all relevant environmental factors, including the materials and energy required to manufacture scooters, the impacts of collecting them daily for charging and redistributing, and the electricity that charges their batteries.
Anyone who lives in a city or near a college campus has probably seen e-scooters. Designed for short-distance travel, these devices have a small electric motor and deck on which a single person stands. Ride share companies such as Bird and Lime rent out scooters by the minute, and riders leave them at their final destination to be claimed by the next user or picked up later for charging.
In 2017 these programs were rare, but in 2018 riders took an estimated 38.5 million trips on e-scooters. These devices fill a singular niche for some people, solving the “last mile problem” – the last leg of a trip, which sometimes can be the most difficult, since it may mean walking home from a bus stop or train station. Scooters are an alternative to driving and parking a personal automobile, and often are cheaper than a taxi or Uber.
It is important to consider what e-scooters are displacing when quantifying their relative effects on the environment. Surveys show that about one-third of e-scooter rides replace automobile use, while nearly half of scooter users would have walked or biked instead. About 10 per cent would have taken public transit, and the remaining 7 per cent or 8 per cent would not have made the trip at all.”