Link E-scooters Might Shake out the Kinks Holding Back Micromobility

This smarter, stronger scooter from Superpedestrian plays well with cities.

Link Scooter
Link Scooter.

Superpedestrian

There are many (including yours truly) who believe that micromobility is the future of urban transportation; that powerful little batteries, and smart electronics will make it possible for many people to get where they need to go without cars. In these pandemic days, a lot of people want to get around without being squished into public transit.

However, micromobility has had a rough start. Dockless electric scooters have been particularly problematic. Being based on recreational scooters, they broke down quickly and had limited range. Their tiny wheels often made the ride rough and dangerous; when I last used them in Lisbon, my teeth almost were shaken out while riding over the little marble blocks they pave the streets with. And perhaps most importantly for cities, people could and would leave them everywhere, including sidewalks. (Although you rarely hear people complaining about dockless cars left in bike lanes or on sidewalks, there is a certain bias here, but that’s another story.)

3 scooters parked in a walkway
Who left those scooters in a walkway?. Superpedestrian 

Enter the LINK e-scooter, just introduced by Superpedestrian, the people who brought us the Copenhagen Wheel. It took a while to get that drop-in e-bike conversion wheel (beloved by Treehugger Emeritus Derek Markham) to market, but the company learned a lot in the process; lessons and tools that they have applied to the LINK. Melinda Hanson of consultancy Electric Avenue tells Treehugger that the LINK “e-scooter uses the same vehicle intelligence as the Copenhagen Wheel and is performing exceptionally well in pilot cities; they’re on track for 2,500 ride lifespan and 50% lower operating costs than others.”


I noted in an earlier post
that “our sidewalks are littered with dockless cars and our bike lanes are full of dockless Fedex trucks and the only reason dockless scooters are a problem is that they are new and we are still working out the kinks.”

The Link e-scooter appears to resolve many of those kinks. As well as being solid and longer-lasting, the 986-Wh battery will push its range to around 55 miles and an average 3 days between charges at normal use. It has regenerative braking, front and rear brakes, and (YES!) 10-inch airless shock-absorbing tires. That’s big enough to safely go across cracks and road imperfections and won’t shake out your teeth.

Link scooter
Link e-scooter carefully parked.  Superpedestrian

The electronics provide theft and vandalism detection, prevention, and reporting. They can deal with “real-time updates to comply with evolving regulations.” And perhaps most importantly, they have a sophisticated “geofence management system” so that riders cannot go where they are not supposed to go, and cannot park it where they are not supposed to park. 

This is really important; last fall in Lisbon I had my first experience with geofence management, where the Bird app told me to park in a certain area or it would not let me sign out and turn off the meter. I had to wander around for 10 minutes, looking for a parking place that the software would actually recognize. 

But perhaps the most important feature is the commitment to work with cities and towns, instead of just dumping the scooters into them. From the press release:

“LINK e-scooters are the first we’ve seen that can really comply with our speed and geofencing requirements,” said Jared Wasinger, Assistant to the City Manager of Manhattan, Kansas. “We’re now much more confident about offering micromobility in Manhattan because we know our public spaces will be protected. That, coupled with how LINK manages their fleet through dedicated, local employees will make for a solid deal.”

That’s another key point, trying to become part of the community.

LINK’s approach is distinguished by a commitment to collaborate with cities, offering advanced e-scooters equipped with technology that enhances compliance with regulations such as speed limits and no-ride zones. Furthermore, LINK hires locally and employs skilled mechanics, ensuring quality repairs and servicing.
how to park
CC BY 2.0. How to park a BMW/ Lloyd Alter

As with any form of transportation, there will always be people who do thoughtless things. Melinda Hanson called it “the asymmetry of power.” I call it the windshield view, where everything is looked at from the perspective of people in cars; they are fine and scooters are a problem. That’s why a smart e-scooter is so much better than a dumb car – drivers would go insane if their car was limited to 25 MPH or would refuse to park in a no-parking zone. A smart e-scooter moves a person so much more efficiently than a car, takes up so much less space. It’s also a lot better for our cities.

I am looking forward to trying out the LINK e-scooter, which appears to address so many of the problems than earlier versions had. I hope it is coming to a smart city near you.