E-Scooter Field Test
Back in Cal.
Landed in San Jose at eleven pm, last flight in, right when the airport shuts down until sunrise.
I had a ride to the airport on the way out, but now there was no one in the region to haul my ass back to my GMC over at my girlfriend’s house.
I’m never excited about using the hire car systems. And though I don’t mind taxis, I felt an adventure was needed. I would’ve walked, but I had purchased a 12-pack of Spotted Cow beer at the airport gate in Milwaukee; I doubt I can carry a 12-pack nine miles to the pickup truck.
So I downloaded three E-scooter apps, to find out about availability, and found there was only one “Lime” at the airport.
After committing to the rental (easy to affect), I took it for a 50-foot test loop (easy to pilot), and then started evolving the cargo situation for the beer. The 12ver did bail once right away, but Spotted Cow has a strong box. Eventually the only solution was to place the case transversely and large-face down at the steering neck, with my left foot on top holding it in place.
So away I go.
It takes a paddle-paddle-paddle with the right foot to get going , and then one adds in some thumb throttle to get the motor to wake up and drive the entire rig. There’s a front-wheel hand brake on the left bar, and it’s stone-dead weak. There’s a foot-operated rear brake that seems very effective, but one needs to not be standing on a box o’ beer to properly use it. It’s probably good for making skid marks, though.
Briskly streaming along at 11 miles an hour like some kind of a Captain Morgan meme, I roll quietly past the Baggage doors and the rest of Terminal B, searching for a way to the east. But I soon derive that getting out of the airport on two electrified wheels means I have to cut through a parking lot, drag the scooter under a decorative hanging-chain fence, and jet across six lanes of expressway-ish street to get to a sidewalk that leads to the real world. But the hour is late - there’s a gap in the flow.
Okay… All safely collected on the other side. Time to start bumping along the sidewalks of sleepy north-side San Jose. The extremely narrow handlebars make it righteously unstable to take a hand off the bar to adjust my cap or face mask being worn in the 38 degree breeze. An instant weave sets in. It’s a very close-coupled vehicle. The rollerblade-type wheels rattle my eyeballs when passing through the pedestrian rumble strips at crosswalks. But the math in my head is good; 10-12 miles an hour is way better than walking, that at best, is three miles an hour.
Getting to the GMC means I have go east instead of south for two miles to get to the nearest Lime scooter that isn’t in the center of a known houseless encampment, because this scooter only has four miles of life left. The Lime app says there are two scooters with enough range from which to choose.
The one at a 7-11 has 13-miles of range. After ending the first ride and taking the required picture of it, I log into the next scooter, but it flashes an error code. Some kind of dead. A bit further away, there’s another scooter with 19-miles of range. After a couple of blocks of walking, I find it off the street. It turns out to be in the middle of a block of hotels. But it’s in the center of the last of the area’s old motels; more of a residential-motel situation. Perched next to a palm tree on some Astroturf, the green and white ride with its goofily tall handlebar rests as if it’s on display at the world’s most bargain-basement Mecum auction.
Instantly, it’s very clear to me that I might be ‘stealing’ someone’s commute vehicle which they have squirreled-away….
I pause… It’s quiet here… And fairly bright with the flood lights along the roof line. So I’m obviously in someone’s ‘front yard,’ as I stare at this ride.
It’s gotta be near midnight. The airport is closed, so the cabs will be gone. And I’ve got seven miles to walk through San Jose… I’m pretty committed to this.
I make a conscious decision to try and rent this scooter. The scooter I abandoned at the 7-11 has some miles on it still, and there were two Bird scooters out there, too.
I will walk if challenged.
I scan the QR code, and the app says it does have 19-miles of charge, and is available. I agree to rent it.
Load up the beer on the platform. Stow the phone in my jacket and get my gloves on. The three-inch kickstand goes with a clatter, and I push the scoot into the parking lot with another clatter. Here we go…
Slowly at first. And then faster and faster away from the motel through the dark part of the parking lot. Past the old RVs and the fogged-window cars that indicate people are sleeping inside. Apexing across the doorway of the abandoned Denny’s at the motel entrance, I get out onto the street and in a minute pass the 7-11. Looking back; No one follows.
Early morning in a million-person city. My old work environment. Black starless sky. Streetlight shimmers on dew-damp streets. There’s not a lot going on. Few cars. A rare bus. A street sweeper doing donuts…. This isn’t New York or even SF. Just move with the confidence that you belong
The rough navigation is loaded in my head: South on First. Right on Hedding. South on The Alameda. Right on Race. Pick off San Carlos to the left. Then bang onto Lincoln to the South and done.
I’ve given up on the sidewalks since I appropriated the second scooter. There are a fair number of bike lanes on First Street for safety, but having to swing out for parked cars on The Alameda is nerve wracking. I can hear cars coming from behind, but I can’t look back to see them; my stance is weird with the beer underfoot, and again the ride’s instability comes right up.
A cop looks at me as I wait for a red light, but then he turns over my nose and disappears. I guess it’s okay to be in the street. The Lime grinds me up over a steep railroad overpass, and hits 16 mph on the backside, with a feeling like there might be a programed speed limitation.
Race and San Carlos and north Lincoln - the ‘gritty’ areas. Neighborhoods jammed with parked cars and silent homes. A recycling center with a weathered sign under a yellow bulb proclaiming its desire for ‘your old metal.’ Bars with open doors. Music and the smell of food wafting out. A few people standing outside, coats on, hoods up, looking down as if in prayer or contemplation why their toes are on this piece of concrete on this certain planet.
My right ankle starts to ache from being canted fully sideways by the 12ver and carrying all my weight. Something will have to be done.
That something is I decide to dispense with traffic law and risk the red light by turning the intersections into giant sweepers, cornering the left-handers in an arc from the curb, to the inside corner, and then back out to the far curb. There are no issues. A car gives me a break once by checking up slightly to not run over me.
The range projection for the Lime seems linear. Near the end, power is down to the low 60s, and the speed has dropped off a bit.
There’s still a bit of a walk to the truck, but i don’t want to leave the scooter in a residential area. So I park it by the gyro shop. No one wants to see that the ratty GMC left, and that’s when that damned scooter showed up.
So I park the ride, as the app says, “out of the way and in sight,” and take the required picture. I get a message congratulating me on my “long ride,” pairing well with the first-ride’s message of “we like the way you roll.” I gather my beer and pad along on foot.
When I get to the truck, there’s a Lime scooter across the street…
Total cost for both rides was about $28.
In my mind, this is not the bargain I was hoping for. In fact, it occurred to me right away that owning and maintaining A REAL MOTORCYCLE for a ten-mile commute might actually be less expensive.
Supports splitting everywhere.