Electric scooters have arrived at CWRU and crossing campus may never be the same. Our interns took a spin into the new uera, testing the engineering and the fun.

Updated 10/22/19

The era of the e-scooter has arrived at Case Western Reserve. This summer, Cleveland formally welcomed rental electric scooters to the city. A six-month trial run began in August, and already the scooters are whisking students, staff and faculty around campus.

California-based Bird Scooter Company and Spin, which is owned by Ford, are the first in University Circle. Their lightweight scooters, which cruise at a maximum 12 mph, offer a brisk new way to get across campus. The university has responded by promoting training sessions and scooter protocols: Wear a helmet. Leave scooters near bike racks. Alert pedestrians when you are passing.

The program operates much like a bikeshare. You download an app on your smartphone and use it to find a scooter. It’s $1 to activate a ride, then the meter starts running, so off you go. Bird is charging 31 cents a minute compared to 29 cents a minute on Spin. Users must be 18 or older.

The dockless scooters display some nifty engineering. Bird seeks to group its scooters in convenient “nests,” then uses GPS to round them up at night and recharge them for the next morning. Spin claims the e-scooters’ batteries can last up to 37.5 miles on a charge.

We wanted to find out how well the system works. How well do the apps perform? How easy is it to zip around campus by scooter? Is it safe? Is it fun? And is a Spin better than a Bird?

We secured helmets for our two interns and sent them rolling. Here’s what they discovered.


Emma Wyckoff, third year, civil engineering | Bird Scooter

Scooter used: Bird

Where I started: MOCA

Where I went: Tomlinson Hall on Case Quad

Miles and time travelled: 1.2 miles, about 20 minutes

The experience: This was my first time riding an electric scooter, so it took a few minutes to get used to the feeling of it. Thankfully, the scooter is user-friendly and the app had instructions for riding that were easy to understand. Once I figured out the throttle and brake and learned how to balance on the scooter, I was able to relax and enjoy the ride.

The best part of the ride was finding an open road with few cars and pedestrians and riding at maximum speed: 12 mph doesn’t sound like much, but it’s actually pretty fast!

Overall, the ride was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t perfect. Before starting my ride, I had to think about where I would be going. The most direct path would have been down Euclid Avenue, but the rush hour traffic and sidewalk closures made that an unpleasant option. I took a longer route to avoid cars and pedestrians. This made my final cost more expensive, but made the ride safer for myself and those around me. The app explicitly said not to ride on sidewalks, but at times this was unavoidable. Even when I was able to ride in the street, bumps and potholes made for a rough ride.

The Technology: The throttle was familiar and easy to use. Push off with your foot to get started, then just slowly push down on the button with your thumb to accelerate. The acceleration has some punch to it though, so it was not as smooth as I was expecting. If you are not properly balanced on the scooter, it does feel like a quick acceleration could throw you off.

The hand brake resembles what you would find on a bicycle and was pretty stiff. It brought the scooter to a complete stop rather than gradually slowing it down. I refrained from using the brake and instead completely let off the throttle when I wanted to slow down and stop.

For a 20 minute ride, I used only 3% of the scooter’s battery, which was less than I expected. The app was simple and the map it displayed allowed me to see what scooters were nearby. It even let me reserve the scooter for 15 minutes to make sure it was still available when I came back.

Cost: $6.03

Why I will or won’t be a regular rider: I don’t think I will be a regular rider. To me they are more of a novelty than a necessity. If I need to get somewhere fast on campus, I will still look to the campus shuttles before picking up a scooter. But if there are no buses available and a scooter just happens to be nearby, I might consider spending the money every once in awhile.

 


 

Sebastian Abisleiman, third year, mechanical and aerospace engineering | Bird Scooter

Scooter used: Bird

Where I started:
MOCA, at Mayfield and Euclid.

Where I went:
Through the roads behind University Hospital, down Adelbert Road and onto Case Quad towards Tomlinson.

Miles and time travelled: 1.2 miles in 15 minutes. We spent about 5 minutes initially to get the handle of the scooters, so ride time was closer to 10 minutes.

The experience: The experience was pretty exhilarating. Riding around just feels fun, provided that you’re in a safe environment. When too many people or cars are around, you feel you need to be extra cautious to not hurt yourself of anyone else.

There’s still a novelty about the scooters and you’ll draw glances. One concern is that some people wear headphones while walking and they can’t hear you when you are passing. Maybe they can hear the bell, but I called out to them instead.

The technology: The app was intuitive to use. It gave the locations of available scooters and their battery charge level. Hopping on and riding took some getting used to, but after about 5 minutes or so of cruising on the sidewalk, I felt like I understood the vehicle enough to take it for longer rides.

It got tricky on rough roads, but as long as you’re attentive and have a firm grip on the handles, you’ll be zipping along just fine. Unlike a bike or skateboard, you can just leave a scooter. You don’t have to worry about lugging it around or performing any maintenance, and the scooters are pretty fast for little physical effort. Here’s how I would compare the three college conveyances:

Bike Skateboard Scooter
Only accessible by you Only accessible by you Can be picked up by anyone
Fastest Fast Faster
Pedal Kick Thumb Throttle
Buy to own Buy to own Short-term rental
Pump tires Tighten wheels No maintenance
Can ride in snow (bigger tires better) Cannot ride in show Can ride in light snow (no sharp turns)


Cost: It cost me about $7 to ride for 15 or so minutes, but I only needed to pay $2 with a coupon code that gives you $5 for your first ride.
A typical ride costs $1 to get on and then $0.31 for every minute.

Why I will or won’t be a regular rider: I haven’t yet ridden the other scooter brands, like Spin, but scooter transport seems like a pretty solid idea. I can see situational advantages. If I need to get to the other side of campus fast, like for class, then I’m looking for a scooter. Only a few are available now, and many people seem to be using them, so I hope companies like Bird and Spin take advantage of the market and bring in more scooters.

 



Emma Wyckoff | Spin Scooter


Scooter used:
Spin

Where I started: Bingham Building, Case Quad

Where I went: North Residential Village

Miles and time travelled: 1.7 miles for 12 minutes

What it was like: My experience with the Spin scooter was great! The ride was smooth even though I was riding down Euclid during rush hour. Because the street was so busy, I rode primarily on the sidewalks. I thought it would be more difficult to maneuver around pedestrians, but it was very easy to slow down the scooter around large groups of people. Once I was off Euclid and traveling down 115th street, I could ride in the street and see just how fast the scooter could go. The feeling of riding down an open street at full speed is what keeps me coming back to the scooters. The best part was getting back to my dorm in half the time it takes me to walk.

The Technology: The Spin scooter has the same throttle and brake system as other scooters, however it is much better than its competition. The acceleration is smoother and not peppy, making it easier to keep your balance. The brake helped me gradually slow down rather than coming to a sudden stop. This made me feel much safer, especially riding down a busy street like Euclid. Additionally, the scooter has a speedometer, which proved that the scooters can actually get up to their max speed of 12 mph. One drawback to Spin compared to other scooter brands is that there was no option to reserve a nearby scooter.

Cost: $4.48

Why I will or won’t be a regular rider: My ride with Spin changed the way I view scooters. The smoother technology made all the difference and helped me feel more comfortable as a rider. I did notice after checking the app over multiple days that the Spin scooters are not consistently on campus. Some days there are only a few and others days there seems to be one on every corner. However, if I am looking to ride a scooter, I will check my Spin app first.

 



Emma Wyckoff | Lime Scooter


Scooter used: Lime

Where I started: Nord Building, Case Quad

Where I went: North Residential Village

Miles and time travelled: 1.7 miles for 11 minutes

What it was like: I was not impressed with my Lime ride. Of the three brands on campus, Lime is the cheapest—at 15 cents per minute, compared to 29 cents a minute on Spin and 31 cents on Bird. I quickly realized that I got what I paid for with the cheaper scooter. It did get me where I wanted to go quickly, but it was pretty clunky along the way. The scooter had not been taken care of and was covered in dents and scratches.

The Technology: The Lime scooter did not perform as well as others. The throttle was sometimes slow to speed up, and too peppy other times. This made me feel like I had less control than I would have liked. I had to press the brake all the way in to get the scooter to slow down, which caused me to almost hit someone. The Lime app did allow me to reserve the scooter before starting my ride, but it started charging me for every minute it was reserved, even though I had not unlocked the scooter to start my ride. This became an issue when I realized the GPS for the scooter was off. I was frantically looking for the scooter knowing I was already paying for it. To address this issue, the app has a button to “ring” the scooter. I pressed the button and could hear the scooter ringing, which helped me find it faster.

Cost: $3.25

Why I will or won’t be a regular rider: I do not think I will ride another Lime scooter. Although it was the cheapest, I will pay the extra money for a more comfortable ride. One surprising benefit of the Lime is that every cent you spend on a ride is equal to one Lime Point, their version of a rewards program. According to the app, this program is new and reward options have not been decided yet. The Lime scooters are not very common on campus, anyway, which is fine.

 



Sebastian Abisleiman | Spin Scooter


Scooter used:
Spin

Where I started: The Quad just outside Nord Hall.

Where I went: Village House 6

Miles and time travelled: I travelled about 7 minutes from Nord to Village House 6. The app does not give distance, but I estimated 0.93 miles based on Google Maps.

What it was like: So with this ride I was in a rush. I wanted to see how quickly I could make the trip from the Quad to the Village to serve as a template for others. It’s still pretty fun to be zipping around if I didn’t have anywhere else to be. I have been using SPIN more recently due to its general availability around campus. It seems that there aren’t always scooters around when I need to get somewhere fast and I will just speed walk to wherever I need to be. Spin, however, seems to have a larger presence on campus. In terms of ride quality Spin scooters are nearly identical to the others, but I do feel I go a bit faster with the digital speed readout on a small screen in the center of the handlebars. I try to avoid heavily trafficked areas in order to make the most out of this speed. If I were to travel on the main pedestrian thoroughfares, I would be forced to slow down so much that I might as well be walking.

It does look like more students are riding them as I see students on scooters crossing the Quad at any given time of day.

Cost: It cost me about $3.03 to ride for 7 or so minutes.
A typical ride costs $1 to get on and then $0.29 for every minute you ride.

Why I will or won’t be a regular rider: As I have grown more accustomed to riding scooters around campus I can very well see myself taking a scooter to ride between Northside and the Quad whenever a scooter is available close by, just to get home faster and have a little more time in my day, especially the case if it is cold. In any case, scooters still seem somewhat scarce and I look forward to more being rolled out into the area.