The sweet short summer of scooters has passed to the wallowing windy winter of worry as COVID-19 devastates the public transportation sector. Lyft has decided to end its scooters operations in Austin, TX and San Jose, CA.
I never had the pleasure/millenial-ness/goofy nature/urgency to ride a scooter of any kind while I lived in Austin but I was certainly aware of their take over concerning getting around town. It was a smart, cheap, easy solution that worked really well, but then COVID-19 came and took everything we took for granted away, causing amazingly far reaching effects no one could have foreseen.
It is with both sadness and a slight chuckle that this news is received, because on the one hand there was a silly nature to the scooters. They were without a doubt one of the most ineffective ways of transport until someone slapped a motor onto the thing. They were covered in bright paint jobs, under deck lights, and a new company popped up every 2 weeks with their fleet of scooters until you had 10 at every corner all from different companies. It was almost like the movie The Birds, (That was even the name of one company Bird) every time you turned your head there were more and more.
On the other hand they were a legitimate business; meeting needs on a personal basis, not only could anyone rent one, just about anywhere in the city, but you could also make money by charging them once their batteries were depleted. They provided a service and a job all in one quick, easy package. They were also immensely popular so it was a good business model.
Then COVID-19 threw the biggest wrench it could get its virus hands on into the gears of local communities, business, and economies. Its attack has been 2 fold – it’s a virus that can live on objects that have been touched by someone affected for an extended period of time (although direct sunlight can shorten its half life, that isn’t enough to ease people fears of touching something that might have the virus on it), and it has caused a national social distancing and self isolation which causes people to not only not use the scooters but lyfts other services as well, so when it comes to cutting costs the company can slice out the scooters pretty easily.
Lyft confirmed with this statement. “We’re grateful to our scooter riders in Austin as well as our partners in Austin city government. We’re shifting resources and have made the tough decision to end scooter operations today, April 29. We continue to support riders’ essential travel needs during this time with other modes of reliable transportation.”
Lyft, like many other companies, had to lay off 982 employees and furlough another 288 just to hopefully make ends meet, add those numbers to the giant pile of unemployed people. As silly as scooters may seem you never hope your livelihood is dependent on them. Lyft is also sending a $200 credit to people who were enrolled in the critical worker program, and I hope it helps.
Like wars in the past, sickness has brought an end to the scooter wars. Never forget, forever scoot.