I’ve always believed that large, radical change can happen when you get the perfect set of incentives in place.
Uber is a great example of extreme change happening quickly. I remember hearing about the app back in 2012-2013 from a coworker. Shortly thereafter, it seemed that everyone was calling an Uber to get somewhere quickly. It fundamentally changed the way we get around, especially for those in urban areas.
While still in the early innings, the rise of electric scooters feels similar. There’s three things that I’m fascinated by.
First, the rate of change has been astonishing. By some estimates, e-scooters have a 2-3% adoption rate in metro areas in less than a year of service. E-scooters solve such a significant unmet need that you’ll see grown-ass adults in suits taking it to work. It makes me excited to think that 1) this is possible in a world that naturally pushes back when things change too rapidly, and 2) what the next big change in our life might be.
Second, e-scooters blew up and almost no one saw this ahead of time. We’ve been walking since the beginning of land-based animals. How many innovations have we really had here? Bikes are the only thing that I can think of. There’s been a spate of other innovations as well more recently - segways, hoverboards, and boosted boards all come to mind - but none have really taken off in a widespread way.
Who would have thought that electric scooters of all things would be the one to crack the walking code?? It seems so out of left field.
In hindsight, it makes sense. Electric scooters are easier to ride and feel more safe than alternatives. And the electric, ridesharing component eliminates the inconvenience of carrying a big thing around.
But I’m willing to bet that none of you would have predicted the rise of e-scooters some time last year. It’s a reminder of how silly and unpredictable the future can be.
Third, it’s fun to think about the second order effects that might come out of the rise of e-scooters. The one that I like to think about is the impact on real estate. Transportation has a significant impact on city-living and the value of real estate. Those who live in New York know just how expensive places can get when they’re right next to the subway. With e-scooters everywhere, I’m much more willing to live 10-15 minutes away from the nearest subway station if it’s just a 2 minute e-scooter ride away. E-scooters could put pricing pressure on real estate as a wider set of residential units become more viable to live in. It could change the way cities look and feel.
Admittedly, there are problems with e-scooters that many people have loudly pointed out. The problems largely center around where they should be stored and what public space we make available for them to safely travel in. These problems are significant, but solvable. I’m hopeful that we’re able to keep the big picture in mind and make room for new technologies that can change our lives for the better.