ATL E-Scooter Review
Who's Who of Atlanta's E-Scooters?
In the last couple of years, the scooter-sharing business has exploded. They arrived on the scene in 2018 and since then, the market grew exponentially to most major U.S. cities.
Electric scooters offer the convenience of providing a quick ride to your destination that is relatively cheap. However, they do have issues.
In a press release, the city of Atlanta announced a 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew on scooters on Aug. 8th of this year. The city cited this curfew as being temporary while it figures out permanent legislature.
For the time being, scooters are a ubiquitous part of Atlanta. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to do the legwork to assist you in picking the best option from the stacks of scooters around the city.
Upon redownloading the app from previous personal use, Bird retained my information without having me jump through hoops to activate a scooter.
The Bird app is simple and intuitive and also allows you to reserve a scooter near you, ensuring your walk would not be in vain if another passerby nabbed the ride. The design is simple, without a heads-up display and a physical bell to alert other riders and pedestrians.
I was able to get on and roll out with a complimentary ride due to me not having used one in awhile. The Bird scooter handled well, reaching a top speed of 15 mph. I zipped about Piedmont Park with ease.
The brakes worked well and overall the ride was excellent.The base fare is $1 and then 15 cents per minute. My only issue with the Bird scooter was that the handlebars were a little low for someone of my 6’1” stature.
The bright green and white scooters litter the streets of Atlanta and are noticeably larger than most of their competitors. I used a Lime scooter before, but to my chagrin, it did not save my information the way Bird had.
I suffered a relatively inconvenient sign-in process, which involved confirming my account via an email that seemed to take minutes to show up in my inbox. Once my account was verified, I logged into the app, but could not reserve a scooter.
This was not much of an issue considering there were a metric ton of them peppering the sidewalk.
Like the Bird scooter, the Lime scooter has a thumb lever that accelerates the scooter. However, the breaks are much more finicky.
Instead of a smooth, gradual deceleration, the Lime scooter comes to a halt. It also struggled going up hills where the Bird did not.
The Lime scooter has a speedometer as part of its interface, which is a neat addition if you really need to know your top speed. Pricing, like the Bird, is also $1 base fare and an additional 15 cents per minute after it.
The braking may pose a problem, and for shorter users, the elevation of the handlebars may be a problem. Personally, the raised handlebars made the ride a bit more comfortable than the competition.
The most interesting looking scooter of the group has to be the Wheels, the latest addition to the city. Wheels’s design is a hybrid between a scooter and a bike, meaning they have a seat whereas the competition only allows the rider to stand during use.
One differentiating feature of the Wheels is the ability to pair your phone with its bluetooth and play music over the built-in speaker. It could be obnoxious depending on the rider if they choose to play loud music along their journey.
My experience with the Wheels scooter was a nightmare.
Setting up the app was standard and took a few minutes. However, once I picked my scooter from the stack around it, it did not accelerate.
“No big deal,” I thought to myself as I went to use another one. However, Wheels has a system where it only allows riders to drop off the scooters in ordained locations.
My app noted that I was in the drop-off location, but when I tried to end the ride it would suddenly think otherwise. This lead to a half-hour battle with the app to end my ride.
Wheels only offers customer support through email, so I was unable to obtain immediate assistance. After deleting and redownloading the app twice, I ended the ride.
I came back to Piedmont Park days later and was lucky enough to find a working scooter, which I gleefully whipped around the midtown area. As a ride, Wheels is by far the most enjoyable.
The hybrid nature allows better maneuverability than a regular scooter, and it tops out at 20 mph. The Wheels device is beautiful with its pneumatic tires and dual-disc brakes akin to a high-end bike.
If I was reviewing based simply on the quality of the ride, this would easily top the pack. However, even when completing my ride with this different individual scooter, days apart from my previous interaction, I ran into the same issues.
Also, while Wheels are free to unlock at the time of writing, they charge a higher rate than the rest at 35 cents per minute.
Given the harrowing experience with Wheels’s app, I cannot in good faith recommend this one at the moment, which is a shame given the quality of the scooter itself. Wheels has lot of work to do in making their software intuitive.
While Bird and Lime were the first onto the scene, Uber and Lyft came a little late to the party. The Uber Jump, like the Lyft, uses the Segway ES2 scooter.
A neat thing about the Segway ES2 is that it features regenerative braking as well as a direct friction foot-brake. The regenerative braking on the handlebar was very responsive and I never needed to use the foot-break (although I can imagine needing to use it when an abrupt stop is necessary).
The Uber Jump app was easy to set up and start. It allowed me to reserve a device just like Bird. The device has a small HUD that displays speed and battery levels for the standard rate of $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute after the initial fare.
The ride wasn’t as enjoyable as the Bird and it, like the Lime, struggled with some of the hills in the Piedmont Park area. In fact, it struggled so badly that at one point I had to get off and push it up the hill.
The Uber Jump has good software with an overall functional ride.
Immediately after dumping my Uber Jump in a safe area, I hopped onto the very similar Lyft.
Recall that Uber Jump and Lyft are the same scooter model with the only difference being that instead of a HUD, the Lyft scooter has an array of lights allowing riders to perceive the battery life of the device.
The Lyft setup as a first-time user was a bit more convoluted than Uber Jump. I had to have the app resend multiple confirmation codes that I never got. I brought this issue up with Lyft’s chat support, and after about 15 minutes, I was finally able to ride the scooter.
Since it was the same scooter as the Uber Jump, performance was identical and it struggled on the same hill. Overall, it mirrored my Uber Jump experience aside from the software issues.
It is worth nothing that as of Nov. 22, Lyft is pulling the plug on its scooter operation in Atlanta and a handful of other U.S. cities. Lyft cited the motivation behind the decision as a new focus on markets where they feel they can have the biggest impact.
The final scooter was meant to be the recent Usain-Bolt-backed company, Bolt.
However, I ran into a metaphorical brick wall when trying to ride one of these puppies. Instead of getting on and testing one of these blindingly yellow scooters, I was unable to receive my confirmation text, much like with Lyft.
Even when working with Bolt’s customer service live-chat, I was unable to have my account confirmed, and I spent nearly half an hour sitting on a bench working with their customer service — who admittedly were doing their best to assist me.
Unfortunately, I don’t know whether or not I would recommend Bolt. Upon returning for a second and third time, I was still unable to ride one of their scooters.
When finding yourself in need of a quick ride, Bird is the clear winner. This is fitting as Bird was the original disrupter that thrust U.S. cities into the scooter age.
The ride was excellent, had no issues on hills, and the app was simple and intuitive. If you’re going to pick up one of the myriad scooters cluttering the streets of Atlanta, I recommend a Bird.
Just make sure you’re following the proper safety procedures.