E-scooter companies are desperate for repo men to stop impounding their vehicles

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/07/24/scooterfreude.html

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Sadly it looks like San Diego is as far as they have expanded.

I’d be interested in a franchise opportunity.

I hate those scooters.

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The University of Texas at Austin implemented a policy that any scooter parked in violation will be impounded with a hefty fee to the scooter company. The University also pointed out the company could pass the fee on to the last user. All of a sudden scooters weren’t left on sidewalks or outside doors.

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Yeah, this is what I don’t understand about these things. Don’t these companies have any mechanism in place for ensuring the scooters end up in a reasonable place like a rack near public transit? IIRC, Citibike in NYC charges you until you return the bike to a dock and if you never do, you end up buying a very expensive, not great bike. This seems like an incredibly easy terms of service adjustment to make. Even if there is no physical infrastructure to dock the scooters, there could be acceptable zones you have to get the scooter to before the clock stops.

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This would require that the companies at least mark the dock zones.
I think their idea was just to provide the scooters and let users place them where it is more useful.

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"I certainly would hope to see them here in Austin. Hate those dumb ass scooters, also my card info has been stolen twice in the last 2 months (probs at a gas station) and both times i noticed because they used the card info to… rent lime scooters.

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Which would require them to do what Citibike and most other bike shares have done. Actually engage with the city they operate in, cooperate with existing regulations, and collaborate with the municipality and other businesses there to install infrastructure. Also come up with some possible way to at least cover costs.

But that wouldn’t be disruption or shifting paradigms would it?

ETA: its also worth noting that Citibike was originally a public-private partnership, and the project was first proposed as a municipal city run program. When funding couldn’t be lined up they instead partnered with a company that had already produced successful bike share partnerships in other cities. It was never really intended to be profitable, instead they started with a corporate/ad sponsorship from Citigroup in place of municipal funds and low prices to demonstrate it was possible to break even. And instead it turned out to turn a profit.

They were recently bought out by Lyft… Though I believe they’re still tied to NYCDOT.

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Not strictly - the scooters and bikes where I live all^ have the acceptable zones marked out in the map on their app - no ground marking required. Mind you, these are pretty large areas, like whole streets and suburbs, not anything small like “only the left side of the footpath outside #15 on Main St”

Got it in one. Which is why I tend to ignore the acceptable zones the app tells me are good to park in …

^ Well, all the ones I’ve used so far. Which, by the by, had some um interesting contrasts. The pedal powered (dockless) bikes cost 25c per 15 mins, and 15 mins is ample time to get from anywhere to anywhere in the CBD area. The area surrounding the CBD is fairly hilly, and NOT the kind of place you’d want to pedal a single-gear bike whose gearing is sort of middling. That tends to keep the bikes clustered in the area where they’re most useful. The e-scooter costs $1 to unlock plus 30c per minute - a trip across town can easily run several dollars, and wind up more than taking the bus. They are a lot of fun though. Both, incidentally, are supported - and part-funded - by the city council.

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If you don’t want your scooters impounded, you should take responsibility for them.

The whole business strategy of these “rideshare” (rental) scooters is to take up public space they’re not paying for, and not taking responsibility for any externalities they generate.

It’s really all irresponsibility sold as a business model. That’s why I hate these things so much. “we don’t fucking care how they impact the public space, but if you fucking touch our hardware without paying we’re calling the cops”

They’re takers.

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“It’s not abandoned, it’s just waiting for it’s next customer”. In a drainage ditch with a shopping cart on top of it.

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Worth reading up on the local laws about abandoned property. Looks like littering to me, so puttng it into a dumpster seems reasonable.

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But the problem is that those areas are too big.
They need to be more detailed to avoid leaving the scooters where it block people with low mobility.

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I agree with you that they just ignore any externality in order to disrupt things, and I also think they are wrong and deserve to have their scooters impounded.

But, I also find fascinating the idea of no specified areas and a bottom up sorting done by the users with its advantages and eventual shortcomings.

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Where I work, people have left lime bikes literally across the entrance to the nearby grocery store. Like, completely blocking the automatic doors. They also love to leave them completely across the sidewalk, taking up the most space. At this point I just toss them down the embankment where they don’t get in the way.

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In a drainage ditchriver with a shopping cart on top of it.

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Aye, but titrating space at that scale probably requires more positioning accuracy than the app/scooter is capable of discriminating.

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Considering how some/where people park their cars, it is not very surprising that those things happens.
At least they can be throw around which is still not possible for cars.

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It does not mention anywhere in the article if Scootscoop has any municipal approval to impound these scooters. Assuming they don’t, this seems legally dubious (even if it addresses an annoying problem).

What’s to stop someone from “impounding” other personal property and then demanding a fee to return it?

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Its the sort of at best wishful thinking that Tech companies are prone to. Like social media’s attempts to deal with harassment via algorithm. Being charitable its the assumption that some major cost or problem will work itself out because people are awesome!/We’re smart enough damn it!

At worst (and more likely) its a technobabble dodge to hide the fact that they don’t care and they’re just trying to cut costs and get around laws that make their business model difficult to pull off.

This sort of thing is basically the techno-libertarians version of the free market. It would work great, except things are more complex than that allows for, it assumes populations are both rational and good at figuring this shit out, and it ignores the existence of mal-actors.

I mean if you’ve ever been in a parking lot you’d know that wouldn’t work. And have you ever seen a parking lot with no clearly delineated lanes or parking spots? Once things start to fill up people will literally destroy their own cars to wedge them into any free space that could plausibly be considered a parking spot. Especially if its 2 feet closer to their destination than an open area.

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