Electric scooter rental company Bird announced Wednesday that people can now purchase their scooters, to own in perpetuity, for the sum of $1,299. This is too much money, and yet, as someone who lives in a city than hasn’t yet been a battlefield for rental scooter company dominance (they are illegal in New York, technically, despite that they would bridge many transit desert gaps), I desperately want one. Let’s unpack this feeling.
When I last came back from LA, after several profoundly joyous scooter rides, I fairly seriously looked into buying one, because for the first time I could put a price on happiness, and that price was whatever a scooter cost. As it turns out, electric scooters are not wildly expensive to own: You can get a probably dicey one for $200 and something slightly more reputable for $500. (In fact, the very same scooter Bird uses in its fleet is for sale on Amazon from the manufacturer for $450.)
Two things stopped me: the roads in New York are vastly worse than in LA, which might really hamper the joy of scooting. But also, one of the big pleasures of rentable scooters like Birds and Limes is that once you arrive at your destination, they are not your problem anymore; you leave them on a sidewalk, they self-lock their wheels so no one can use them without paying, and that’s it. You might vaguely hope no one scoots the scooter away while you’re attending to your business so you can use it again when you’re leaving, but the scooters serve no master; if someone else wants to ride it away before you, you have to let it go.
If I bought the Bird scooter from Amazon, it would not have the locking mechanism that would at least severely discourage a random thief from scooting away on my steed. The version that Bird is now selling does have the “digital locking” mechanism that prevents the front wheel from turning and a longer range (30 miles instead of 18.6), but for these features, it’s charging an $800 premium. A downside seems to be that unlike the stock version of the scooter, Bird’s juiced-up version cannot be folded and, say, carried inside with you (a dorky move unto itself, but more reassuring than leaving your precious scooter outside). There are such things as locks for scooters, but they don’t look very secure.
While the scooters are expensive and feel like tech-bro peacocking, they are not vastly different in cost than some bicycles, or than the electric bikes on which New York delivery guys zip through the streets (and more power to them, given how much food everyone is ordering on Seamless these days). I’m just desperately looking for a way to bring a scooter into my life, or more specifically, the sensation of standing still and accelerating through the streets at the same time, the wind in my hair and sun on my face. This wildly expensive Bird scooter doesn’t meet the bar, still, but I’m going to keep looking at the product pages and holding on to that feeling of flying down a sunny LA avenue while all the Lincoln Navigators and Chevy Suburbans honk at me for getting in the way of their right-hand turns.