Fully Charged

By Tony Donaldson tonyd@hi-torque.com

In case you haven’t heard, the electric scooter has arrived and I happen to live at ground zero for their popularity in Southern California. The GPS-enabled Bird e-scooter brand was born in Santa Monica when company founder Travis VanderZanden moved his family here specifically to start the company. I was immediately a fan, as they were so easy to use and easy to locate.

But many Santa Monicans didn’t agree. In their own, sometimes passive-aggressive opinion, they complained that the scooters were simply a nuisance. The local neighborhood app Nextdoor has been lit up with nonstop, polarizing posts about the scooters, with big fans cheering their arrival and the other half who want them all to go away. There’s more chatter about scooters than anything else, dwarfing the usual discussions on things like homelessness and crime. The discussions are sometimes downright nasty, with vitriol flying via the relative anonymity and safety of keyboard courage.

To me, e-scooters not only represent something new but useful too. Oh yeah, they’re also a lot of fun to ride. But, while some people fear change, there are others who are excited about it. I know I am. There are growing pains

as people learn to use them correctly and park them with care. They become a way to cut down on traffic and congestion. I look at it as another way to get people out of their cars and on two wheels. There isn’t a replacement for owning an electric or traditional bike, but rather something great in addition to it.

I recently sat in for a Santa Monica City Council meeting on the subject. If you ever want to fall asleep quickly, this is the place to be. Lawmakers, police and the public are all wrestling with how to deal with the hit topic of e-scooters. Government is set up the same way it has been for over two centuries, and it’s used to moving at a snail’s pace. New technologies, especially disruptive ones, have become so nimble that the government is going to have to adapt to keep up or spend way too much money to put out all the fires it will cause.

Law enforcement and government here in Santa Monica unanimously decided to rewrite the wording of who can use the beach bike path, which is mostly shared by pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers, pedicabs, Segway riders and the like. The co-owner of Segway Los Angeles testified that banning electric vehicles of all types from the beach path effectively halts his business. The council chose the easiest path, which is to ban everything with a motor. That means yours truly can no longer enjoy riding test bikes along the beach in my own town. Hopefully, we can work with them to get this lifted.

I see the scooters as part of the new future of mobility in cities. I know some will disagree. The technology is there to help police with the use of scooters and make riders more responsible. I talked to a bike shop owner in Texas, and he loves them but hates the way they are deployed. It hasn’t hindered his business, however. It’s actually brought some sales, as some of the people ride them and enjoy them so much that they want to buy one that they can use all the time.

I’ve also been talking to a lot of people about how the tariffs on goods from China is going to affect them. It seems to have a much greater effect on lower-priced brands, some of which have shuttered their U.S. sales.


By the time you read this column, the annual Interbike show will have been held. This is the big bike industry convention that has been held in Las Vegas for decades and has now moved to Reno. It will be interesting to see how that changes the show. Last year the show had the biggest e-bike presence yet, and I’m expecting it will be even bigger this year. We pick the e-Bike of the Year and e-Bike Product of the Year, which we will feature in the next issue with our full story on the Interbike show.

I’m already being made aware of some incredible new products coming out, much of which I can’t talk about yet thanks to non-disclosure agreements. That’s one part of this job that’s really exciting, getting to learn about all the new bikes and accessories that will soon be coming out. That, and getting to ride some pre-production or prototype bikes that I get to offer my thoughts on, which sometimes changes their ultimate form or function.

If you have a story as to why you love e-bikes, drop me a line! I want to hear from you. Until then, get out and ride!


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