Scooters are a thing, just not in Iowa

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In the season two South Park episode “Prehistoric Ice Man” a guy named Larry is found frozen in ice and thawed, wherein they find he was frozen for three years. The locals react as if this ice man is truly prehistoric due to his dress and pop culture references being so dated. After some shenanigans the solution to send Larry to Des Moines as we are always behind the times culturally. As old as this joke is to Central Iowans, the creators of South Park deemed it worthy of a 20 minute build-up on their -at the time- red hot TV show. 20 years later, we here in the heartland like to think this joke no longer carries any weight; however, there are some definite examples of how Iowa is still waiting ever patiently for the coasts to tell us what’s next. A small, and seemingly odd example is the tech craze of motorized scooters.

Have you seen a motorized scooter recently? Definitely not around Des Moines or within the state’s borders, but these funny looking powered-skateboards-with-handlebars are all the rage in up and down the coast. Not only that but they can be found in Chicago, Minneapolis, Austin, Denver, and even Salt Lake City. Yes, Des Moines is apparently lamer than Salt Lake City.

The thing to understand is these aren’t simply personally owned scooters, but ride share scooters, similar to Uber or Lyft. The major difference between Uber or Lyft is that these scooters aren’t owned by private citizens and loaned out for others to use but owned by the company themselves and rented, used, and returned all via smartphone applications.

The tech craze over these things is pretty simple. On the rental end scooters are cheap to purchase, maintain, and scrap. Technology makes it easy to monitor a scooters location, secure its use, and keep track of who used a scooter last in the case of damage or theft. Plus, there are currently very few regulations or laws about scooter use, requiring insurance, or state registration/titling so liability concerns are not as set in stone as automobile ownership and sharing. Also, unlike a car share situation, since scooters are owned by the company instead of private citizens there is no splitting the rental fee with a third party.

As for the renter; motorized scooters are a simple, quick means to get from point A to point B. Scooters take up a small footprint than bikes, they are easier to park, and due to the technology monitoring and security they can be left virtually anywhere city ordinances allows. Sure you might look silly to some, but these things get you where you want to go with little effort and on the cheap. Unlike waiting for an Uber/Lyft ride moments after you fire up the app, your scooter is unlocked and you’re on your way. If anything it saves rideshare drivers aggravation as well seeing as have the potential to eliminate short trips.

If you still don’t get it, here’s just a few names of companies in the scooting business; Bird, Limebike, Ofo, Mobike, and Jump. Again, being thousands of miles away from the trend those names mean nothing but Uber has partnered with Lime to scale up the scooter numbers to meet rider demand and Bird is already worth 2 billion and expanding rapidly across the country.

One nice thing about being behind the times is other municipalities can figure out the headaches. Some parts of California have banned scooters, others are forcing them to ride and park in the street. So maybe by the time Bird or Lime are trending in the 515, the concerns we’ll be smoothed out.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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