May 18, 2020

Scooter companies hope for a 2-wheeled revival — if they can survive long enough

The pandemic put scooter companies through hell on wheels, but they’re hoping to make a comeback.

With more states easing up on lockdown restrictions, city-dwelling consumers who leave their quaran-caves after weeks in isolation have a few questions to answer:

  1. Can I find a pair of hard pants that still fits?
  2. Does this mask match my outfit?
  3. How the heck am I going to get around?

Scooter companies are hoping they can at least help you with that last question — even if they can’t solve your fashion emergency (or that hair emergency).

The pandemic put them through hell on wheels

The scooter business was already wobbly, and the pandemic made things much worse. The New York Times reported in April that consumer spending on scooters dropped by 100% — more than any other mode of transportation.

Startups like Bird and Lime have announced big layoffs, and the industry is starting to consolidate — not unlike some of the recent movement in the food-delivery business. Uber recently offloaded its bike and scooter biz, Jump, to Lime — as part of a deal that included a $170m investment.

The Washington Post says scooter and bike businesses are hoping to capitalize on the public’s need to move, at a time when people may swear off the Petri dish of public transit. 

In South Korea, Lime says scooter ridership is up 14% from before the pandemic, and some companies say riders are taking scooters for a spin over longer distances.

But the road to long-term success may not be smooth

Scooters will still have to fight cars for room on the road. Some car makers say they’re seeing a surge of business in China — especially among first-time buyers looking to avoid transit or shared rides.

The Verge explored a few routes to potential scooter viability in a post-pandemic world: public subsidies and corporate sponsorships. One example: The city of Portland waived daily fees in exchange for the scooter company Spin cutting the cost of its rides in half.

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