Into the Wild On an E-Scooter

Photo of the author, Brandon Tauszik.

Rental scooters have descended on many American cities, clogging sidewalks and opening riders up to head injuries. Brands like Skip and Lime have the potential to improve city life by increasing mobility, especially in areas with lackluster public transportation. But how would the scooters perform outside the city? For Gizmodo, Joe Veix decides to ride a Skip scooter out of San Francisco and toward the ocean, to test its limitations and see if it can help him escape into nature. The company stated many clear rules. Riding the scooter “as a means of escaping society” was not one of them. But the rules’ undefined edges constituted their own kind of frontier, and Veix embraced this urban adventure.

The Presidio is out of Skip’s service territory area, which is limited to San Francisco proper, excluding its parks. In their app, there’s a border drawn around the map of the city. Outside the area is a purple-colored no-man’s land, free of scooters, presumably ravaged by violent gangs with poor mobility. When I crossed into this lawless territory, I worried that my scooter would shut off and the whole plan would sputter to a stop, leaving me at the mercy of the hordes and their perverse whims. But upon entering the forbidden zone, the scooter kept moving. I was safe… for now.

I rounded the circuitous path up to the Golden Gate Bridge and began crossing. It was crowded with tourists and bikers in spandex. Other than a few odd looks from people, it was mostly uneventful. The bike path along the western side of the bridge was wide and accommodating.

Beyond the bridge, the small screen on the scooter indicated that I had about 50 percent battery left. Not heartening, but it would have to suffice. I rode west, up into the Headlands. The engine churned up the hill at 5 mph. Though sluggish, it was enough to overcome a group of road bikers, who looked upon me with searing disdain.

This is the story of a fun little jaunt by a very funny writer. But there’s also something profound about seeing the e-scooter stripped of its context. Out there on a hiking trail, far from the bustling world of venture capital that created it, it’s no longer a new, potentially lucrative urban accessory poised to disrupt traditional modes of transportation. It’s just a rickety little bunch of plastic with a dying battery.

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