Getting Around.

They sprang up like 13-year cicadas, all over the place, on corners, under trees, and all over sidewalks. At least they were quieter than cicadas, although they could be at least as annoying, zipping up behind me as I was walking somewhere or left lying on their side blocking the path. I was checking one out–I mean considering taking one for a spin, when an older couple came up to me and asked, “How do they work?” I was tempted to be a smartass and say, “Well, you straddle it with your legs and put your feet on the pedals…” but that would be rude, so I said, “It says you have to download an app…” The woman laughed and said, sarcastically, “Well of course! You can’t do anything these days without an app,” and I was glad she was the one who got to be a smartass because she made a much better point. The Ofo bikes seemed like a fun and easy way to get around, but I’m slightly paranoid when it comes to downloading weird apps, especially ones that are theoretically free but could track where I’m going and when. Not that where I’m going is any big secret, and I do see the advantages. I’ve never forgotten the time I got lost biking around St. Petersburg, Florida, which is easy to do because the houses there all look alike, but that’s another story.
Anyway the bikes disappeared as suddenly as 13-year cicadas. It turns out Ofo is scaling back its operations in North America thanks to a series of problems including theft and vandalism, which is why we can’t have nice things or bikes that clutter the sidewalks. They were replaced by Bird scooters which are cooler and because they’re motorized offer a faster way to get around, and they promise that it’s “Only $1 to get started” which I’m even more paranoid about because I’m pretty sure you still have to download an app and now it’s one you have to pay for. And they’ve been controversial because they clutter the sidewalks, gathering in groups. I was standing at a bus stop when I guy sped up on one–I thought I was going to have to get out of his way since quite a few people on them have forced me off the sidewalk as they zip by–and then he got off. So I talked to him a little bit about them. We talked about how the rules are that they’re supposed to only be used on the street and riders are always supposed to wear a helmet. And we agreed that the two things we’ve never seen are someone riding a scooter on the street and someone riding a scooter wearing a helmet. I can’t say whether these new transportation options are really cutting down on traffic which is supposed to be their big advantage–they don’t seem to be–but they’ve definitely prompted a rise in sarcasm.

10 Comments

  1. Red

    Ofo is one of the big bike-share brands in China. During the 20 months I lived in Beijing, the bike-sharing went from about 3 companies to closer to 12. They became a huge nuisance just because so many companies were filling the sidewalks with the bikes. But the convenience was awesome. Several people I know had a couple of the apps, in case they were in a part of town where they couldn’t find one company or the other.

    Then again, China is trying to go as paperless as possible, and apps are the thing.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      As I was looking into Ofo I was kind of surprised to learn they were based in China, but then it made sense given how popular bikes are for getting around in some places there. Here we’ve had much the same problem with discarded or unused bikes filling the sidewalks. The convenience can be really great, though–all buses have bike racks, and I guess someone could take a bike on the bus and then use it to get to a place the buses don’t go, which is a lot of Nashville.

      Reply
  2. mydangblog

    In Toronto they’ve had a lot of success with the bicycle rental program with little depots all over the city so that you can ride as far as you need to then drop it off. There are pretty strict rules here for riding including bells, lights, and helmets, but people still get doored by cars.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      There’s a local bicycle rental program that was started and is run by the city–something I forgot to mention–that started several years ago, although, unlike the Ofo bikes and the scooters, you have to deposit a city bike at one of the regular stations. Getting doored by cars has got to be a problem. Around here I’m surprised more people on bikes don’t get hit.

      Reply
  3. LIbrary Heather

    Living in a small, rural community, I never see things like Ofo bikes and Bird scooters. They make sense for urban areas, though.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      In rural areas I guess bikes are more of a luxury than a convenience and motor vehicles are a necessity. Lucky for you there also aren’t a lot of traffic jams.

      Reply
  4. Tom

    First I’ve ever heard of this! Outstanding!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s really cool. Hey, look for bike and scooter sharing in your area. It seems to be spreading in spite of the setbacks.

      Reply
  5. Ann Koplow

    Thanks for the ride, Chris, and I’m not being sarcastic.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m always sincerely glad when you come along for the ride.

      Reply

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