Scooters in DC: Things you Should Know

It’s 2019 and scooters in DC are hugely popular. Electric scooters came onto the scene last year and have exploded ever since. This post includes information you should know before your pick up a scooter for the first time and details about how to ride.

How to Ride Electric Scooters in Washington DC

While it may seem to the untrained eye that there are scooters abandoned everywhere, that’s actually just how the system is set up. You take a scooter, ride it to where you need to go, and leave it once you get there. Then, at the end of the day someone comes and picks them up, takes them to charge them, and then drops them back on the street the next day.

These scooters look almost exactly like the old razor scooters you might remember from your childhood. Except, of course, that they’re electric and you do not have to kick them everywhere.

What companies have scooters in DC?

The companies that currently run scooters in DC are: Bird, Lime, Spin, Skip, Lyft, and Jump by Uber. Each company has its own app which means you’ll need to download a bunch of different ones and create a bunch of different accounts. This is unless you’re just going to pick one and stick with it.

How much does it cost?

Scooters are not free, Honestly they are not even cheap. Each company is different but generally speaking, you will pay an unlock fee to unlock the scooter and then a usage fee, charged per minute that you ride it.

The unlock fee is usually around $1 and then the usage fee is somewhere between 25 and 30 cents depending on the specific scooter company. Now, that might not initially sound like a lot but keep in mind that a 30 minute scooter ride under that system will cost you around $10. By comparison, a 30 minute ride on Capital Bikeshare will only cost you $2. So, if you’re on a budget but plan to do a lot of scooting this can really add up quick now.

Rules for riding scooters in DC

Before we talk about riding the scooter, we need to go over the ground rules. Yes, when you come to DC, you will see each and every single one of these rules broken. But, if you want to ride a scooter and do it by the book these are the rules and you should follow them.

1. Kids are not allowed.

Kids are not allowed on the scooters. Scooter companies require their riders to be at least 18 years or older.

2. Only one person per scooter

These scooters are just not safe enough to transport more than one person. If you have multiple people in your group, each person should ride their own scooter.

3. You can’t end your trip outside of the company’s service area

The National Mall is not part of the service areas. This is important because many visitors see the scooters and consider them a great way to see the monuments and memorials. However, be careful! Some scooter companies will charge you a hefty fine if you end your ride on the National Mall. Others might not even allow you to end a trip at all until you leave the area.

If you do plan to break this one, don’t ride the scooters in the memorials. It is not just illegal but it’s totally disrespectful and obnoxious, especially the war memorials.

4. You cannot just leave the scooter anywhere

You have to leave the scooter in a public place and away from pedestrians. One of the reasons why scooters have become such a huge lightning rods is because people keep leaving them right in the middle of the sidewalk instead of off and out of the way.

5. You need to wear a helmet

Less than 1% of scooter riders actually follow this one and most visitors won’t travel with helmets. But this is the rule and it’s for your safety.

How to start your scooter ride

The first thing you obviously need to do is find one. Depending on exactly where you are this could be as simple as stumbling down the street until you come upon one. However, if you’re using the apps you can look on the app to see exactly where they’re located. Once you get to your scooter, look for a QR code, probably on the top or somewhere on the front.

If you haven’t already, you will need to create an account with the scooter company and enter your billing information. Then, you will click on the “start your ride” button. This will open up your phone’s camera app which will let you scan the QR code on the actual scooter. Once you’ve done that, depending on the company, the scooter will either play a sound or the app will give you a notification to confirm that your ride has started.

How to operate the scooter

The scooters don’t all look exactly the same. Some of them have taller or shorter handlebars. Some have wider or thinner boards. But, they all function basically the same way. The scooter will have a button for the throttle (or what you could think of as the gas) and a brake (which will probably look like the standard brake you see on a bicycle). In order to activate the electric motor you have to give the scooter one or two manual kicks. This is a safety feature to keep the scooter from taking off on you when you’re not already moving.

Now, the first time you ride one of these scooters, it will take a few moments to get used to it. So, you should not take a scooter immediately out into traffic. When you reach your destination, make sure to put the scooter in a public place and out of the way. Then, you should reopen your app and tap the button to finish your ride.

Are scooters in DC worth the cost?

If you’re here on vacation, scooters in DC can be a fun novelty. Also, it is an okay way to get from place to place.

The biggest disadvantage, at least in 2019, is that you either have to create multiple accounts with multiple apps or stick to one or two. A good place to start might be with the Lyft scooters for the simple reason that if you already have a Lyft account you can use the same app without having to create a new account or re-enter your billing information. Then, if you like scooting, maybe you try out one of the other companies.

Coming to Washington, DC and want us to show your around?

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About Trip Hacks DC

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation's Capital.

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