[Update March 17: Lime has just announced that it is suspending its electric scooter sharing operations to encourage people to stay indoors as part of a social distancing policy. The countries with suspended Lime service include Italy, France, and Spain. Service is also being suspended in California and Washington State.]
Electric bicycles, electric scooters, and other personal electric vehicles have long been touted for their economic and environmental benefits. But now we’re seeing how these types of vehicles are being effectively employed as one more option to defend commuters from contracting and/or spreading coronavirus.
One of the biggest underlying factors leading to the rapid spread of coronavirus around the world has been the virus’ ability to spread among people packed in close quarters, often days before symptoms emerge.
Thus, it has become a common recommendation to avoid packed public spaces such as overloaded city buses and subway cars.
While many commuters had already sworn off such forms of public transportation years ago after discovering the benefits of electric bicycles, e-scooters, and other micromobility options, other travelers fearing the spread of coronavirus are just now discovering these convenient transportation alternatives.
E-bike and e-scooter sharing programs are now seeing a boost in ridership.
The New York Times reported that bicycle trips in New York City have jumped by 50% in some places compared to the same period last year, and that the Citi Bike bicycle-sharing program, which includes thousands of electric bicycles, has seen a 67% surge in ridership. Chicago is apparently seeing even more dramatic increases with a nearly 100% jump in cycling compared to the same time last year.
Some sharing companies have begun offering discounts or free rides to help reduce the number of commuters packed into tight quarters on public transportation. For example, the Czech bike-sharing service Rekola is offering free rides of up to 30 minutes for the next two weeks.
For those looking to purchase an e-bike or e-scooter instead of facing the prospect of sharing a vehicle with others, many companies are now offering big sales.
Unagi is offering a coronavirus sale for its electric scooters (which we recently reviewed). The scooters are being offered for 25% off for the next two weeks with the coupon code UNAGI-8jcnds that Unagi provided to Electrek.
GoTrax is offering its XR scooter for $50 off, bringing the price down to just $249. The slightly more powerful version of the scooter, the GoTrax XR Ultra (which we also reviewed), is currently being marked down from $399 to $349.
Such lightweight, privately owned electric scooters have recently become an important tool for many commuters who find the scooters to be great last-mile vehicles. Instead of driving into the city and taking a bus or train for the final leg of a commute, drivers can keep a lightweight electric scooter in the trunk of their car for last-mile journeys inside the city. Many city dwellers have even turned these scooters into their main from of transportation. We recently compared the best lightweight electric scooters for these types of trips, analyzing how they stack up against each other. See our comparison video below.
Other companies are also offering big sales on electric bicycles. Juiced Bikes is offering up to $800 off on some models, including the popular City Scrambler electric bike for $1,399.
While some riders have shown a preference for these privately owned e-scooters and e-bikes over shared mobility services, both have become popular options recently.
Lime, one of the largest shared electric scooter operators, has recently increased the frequency with which it disinfects its shared scooter fleets in response to the coronavirus. It is also requiring its operators and mechanics to wear gloves.
As someone who already regularly commutes by e-bike, e-scooter, and e-skateboard, I almost never take public transit. So I consider myself fairly lucky to be spared from forcing to choose between distancing myself from others and arriving to my job on time. But if I had a standard subway or bus commute twice a day, I’d certainly be looking for any alternative I could.
I’m not saying everyone should run out and buy an e-bike or an e-scooter (though I do think our cities would be better places if many people did). But I absolutely believe that this is a good chance for people give these alternative micromobility options a try. If you have an electric bicycle or scooter sharing program in your city and you haven’t tested it yet, why not start now?
If you’re worried about the possibility of the person who used the bike before you having coronavirus, then wipe down the handlebars first with sanitary wipes, or wear gloves. Also, wash your hands after the ride (which is a good idea in general). Cycling is being recommended by city authorities over sitting in a subway car.
Let’s all stay safe out there, remove ourselves from crowded areas, and get through this thing together. And if more people discover the benefits of personal electric vehicles, then that’s one good thing to come out of it.
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