You’ve surely heard about the electric scooters you can rent in Fort Lauderdale. Maybe they sound like a fun way to get to your next meeting, join friends at a coffee shop, or see the beach.
You have to make some choices, starting with whose scooter you rent. Four businesses rent the scooters now, and two more might be on the way.
Fort Lauderdale’s e-scooter program has provoked considerable debate since it began in November, with fans calling the scooters fun and efficient and critics decrying them as dangerous. If want to get in on the trend anyway, here’s how you do it.
Who rents e-scooters in Fort Lauderdale?
The four companies renting scooters are Lime, Bird, Gotcha and Bolt. Lime and Bird are big, California-based companies, while Gotcha, based in Charleston, S.C., had experience in car-ride and bike sharing before it introduced scooters. Bolt is a new Miami-based company.
Spin and Uber’s Jump are seeking to come into Fort Lauderdale.
After downloading one of these company’s apps on your mobile phone and setting up an account, you can unlock a scooter you find on the sidewalk or locate via the app.
How much does it cost?
For consumers, e-scooters are cheap transportation: $1 to unlock a scooter, plus 15 cents to 25 cents a minute. Lime, Gotcha and Bolt cost the initial dollar plus 15 cents a minute; Bird is $1 plus 25 cents a minute.
These scooters are for adults: renters must be 18 with a valid driver’s license.
Which company has the best scooter?
Well, that’s debatable, but there are differences in the scooter designs. How you stand on the scooter may be different — with both feet on the same platform or two steps. Some have wider wheels, and they may brake differently.
The best way to decide is to try them out.
Dan Lindblade, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, rents a scooter to ride cross-town to a meeting. He said he has downloaded three apps: Lime, Bolt and Bird. He uses whichever one is available.
He said the vehicles are similar in some respects, different in others. Of the three he has tried, he finds Lime’s scooter the most comfortable. “It has a wide platform and the app is very intuitive,” he said.
Lime scooters are sturdy enough to ride over railroad tracks or up a small hill, according to Jed Fluxman, Lime’s general manager in Florida.
And soon, Lime’s scooters will be even better, Fluxman said. In early March, he expects that Fort Lauderdale will be among the first cities to get Lime’s newest design, the “3.0” scooter, which won awards at the 2018 Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The new scooter has 10-inch diameter wheels and features a screen for Google Maps directions.
Gotcha touts its scooter’s wide foot-pad and 10-inch wheels — compared with 6- to 8-inch wheels on some models — and light-up bottom for safety, according to founder and CEO Sean Flood. The scooter has both electronic and manual brakes.
The Gotcha app also is different from other scooter rental companies in that consumers can request a scooter, car ride share, or bike share.
“We have multiple products with one app. …The scooter is all the buzz, but it’s not for everybody,” Flood said. Gotcha’s typical rider is 18 to 34 years old.
Bolt’s scooter features a low center of gravity, which is helpful if the rider encounters an obstacle and needs to stop, said Ricardo Villas-Boas, director of marketing.
“Typically, you have to stand on a scooter like a skateboard,” he said. But Bolt is different as it has a “flap,” or step on either side. “Women in high heels can ride a scooter.”
Bird didn’t return calls and emails answering specific questions about its e-scooter. The company is reportedly using a new design, the Bird Zero, designed to be sturdier, but it’s unclear whether that model is being used in Fort Lauderdale.
How fast do the scooters go?
The scooters are supposed to go no faster than 15 mph, according to a Fort Lauderdale ordinance.
Gotcha said it has the ability to automatically reduce the speed in a high-traffic area such as Las Olas Boulevard, according to Flood.
Where do I park the scooter?
For most companies, you can leave a scooter “anywhere” when you’re done — although Fort Lauderdale ordinances prohibit parking them in places like private property, in the street, blocking wheelchair ramps or near fire hydrants. Company crews pick up the scooters at the end of the day — or even a few times a day — to redeploy them.
Gotcha is working to create designated parking spaces for scooters. It has been partnering with local shops, such as Wells Coffee at 737 NE 2nd Ave., so renters can pick up or drop off the scooter at those locations, which are found on its app.
“We’re trying to push other operators in Fort Lauderdale to go this direction,” Flood said. “If we’re successful to get other vendors to do it, then you don’t have scooters lying in front of somebody’s house or in the street.”
How are the scooters maintained?
Lime employs three shifts of workers a day to re-deploy scooters where they are most in demand. Fluxman said all scooters are brought to a warehouse “at least once a week,” where mechanics check their wear and tear and do maintenance if needed.
Bolt says it has a dedicated “booster” workforce — people who collect its scooters for charging — bringing scooters to the warehouse for charging and to the garage for maintenance every day.
Gotcha’s Flood says scooter maintenance happens daily at a nearby warehouse. “We have a local team that manages each of the markets. There’s a professional who picks up the scooters every day and puts their eyes on them.”
Bird says it also picks up its scooters each night for storage, charging, and any necessary repair.
What safety measures do scooters offer?
Helmets are not required to be worn, just as they’re not on motorcycles in Florida, but most companies encourage them by handing them out for free when they launch in a city.
The scooter companies post “how-to-ride” tutorials and safety warnings on their sites and apps.
Still, some community members point to the dangers, including the family of a 27-year-old Fort Lauderdale woman who is in a coma after being struck by a car while riding an e-scooter on a street in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
The scooters are supposed to be operated only on sidewalks, according to the city ordinance. Some city commissioners said they would prefer scooters use bicycle lanes — but under Florida law they’re not allowed.
Scooter companies say safety is a matter of raising awareness of the scooters on the street and educating consumers about the rules.
Under Fort Lauderdale’s ordinance, scooter riders are asked to always yield to pedestrians, obey traffic laws, leave 4 feet clear on the sidewalk when parking and never to drink and drive. But scooter companies say it’s challenging to get everyone to behave.
“Our mindset is pedestrians should always have the right of way. Because it’s such a new technology, there’s a little bit of a learning curve,” says Villas-Boas of Bolt.
For more information
Gotcha: firstname.lastname@example.org or 909-351-3656 (call or text)
Lime: email@example.com or 888-546-3345 (call or text)
Bolt: firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-290-2658
Bird: email@example.com or 866-205-2442
Company apps can be downloaded on mobile phones via Apple’s iTunes or Google Play.
Staff Writer Brittany Wallman contributed to this report.