A Futuristic Ride | Trying Out Lime Electric Scooters in Lake Tahoe

Riding around at nearly 20 mph on a Lime-s electric scooter, two questions were fired at me fairly frequently by people on foot: how much does it cost, and are they fun to ride? Let’s delve into my experience riding these futuristic modes of transportation. (And yes, I’ll answer those two questions below.)

The dockless scooters were seen everywhere in South Lake Tahoe, where I visited in late July of this year for an issue of RTX Traveler Magazine that will publish in 2019. The scooters and their Lime Bike counterparts were well-suited for the bike paths and low traffic side streets of the area. The warm weather and compact nature of South Lake Tahoe meant they were a great way to get around, whether it was out to eat, to a brewery, shopping, or just cruising the lakefront.

The concept of dockless scooters is being tested in cities across the nation, and this was the first time I had seen the high tech devices. Seeing them zip by everywhere, immediately I knew I had to try them out, but before riding, I had the same questions. How does this work?

It’s an interesting concept. Dockless means when you’re done riding, you leave the scooter where it stands- that means there were random scooters ditched along sidewalks and so forth. There weren’t that many in Tahoe that it was a problem, but this is a drawback of these scooters in larger cities. It’s a byproduct of the learning curve of cutting edge technology, but I felt in Tahoe it just added to the fun and fit in nicely with the vacationers. As regulations catch up with the business model, I bet a happy medium will be reached between scooter fun and local ire.

Ok, so you just pick one up and ride?

Well, not exactly. Here’s the process: you download the Lime app on your smartphone, enter your credit card info and put an initial $10 into your account. The app will tell you on a map which scooters are nearby and how much battery charge they have. They are GPS tracked, so theoretically the app should tell you with accuracy where they are, and I found it to be spot on.

The fun began before even riding the scooter. It was, dare I say it, thrilling, to see a scooter on the map and find it in real life, sort of like a treasure hunt. Sometimes during peak hours, they took a little while to find, and it was like a reward finding one. So there’s some whimsy involved. You definitely don’t get that with a taxi cab.

Once you find a suitable Lime-S, hit the unlock button on your phone. This costs $1. Your phone’s camera will open, which you’ll use to scan the QR code on the scooter. A little song plays, meaning it’s unlocked and good to go. From there on, it’s 15 cents per minute to ride it until you get to where you’re going and hit the lock button. Leave your scooter wherever for the next customer.

The ride

Bike 1Like I said, these scooters were great for South Lake Tahoe. The area already has a well established bike path system, and the weather and scenery in the summer is pretty good, too. At no point did I feel unsafe due to traffic as the tall trees whizzed by. You have to give a few pushes before you can engage the electric mode, and off you go. I suspect this is for safety purposes, and it probably helps the battery conserve power as well. There is a brake that works smoothly to slow you down, but it won’t stop on a dime. Both stop and go are via levers on the handlebars, and are intuitive.

The scooters are well built, have red and green lights on the sides and a headlight, and are more stable than a kid’s Razor, but they are still scooters. I’d say someone coming out of the brewery and riding one in sandals is…waiting to take a spill. As I mentioned earlier, they go about 20 mph (Not slow!) and you should pay attention to bumps and transitions in the pavement. (Not to mention massive Tahoe pine cones.)

Overall impressions

I did zero homework before diving in, downloading the app, and riding. I wasn’t really sure if I would like it, but it was a lot of fun. The whole process felt futuristic: you locate a scooter on your screen, then just discard it after riding. It was fun to try out a piece of technology that is still in the experimental phase in many cities.

After riding, you get a summary of what you paid, and how long and far you rode. The price was probably on par with Uber, but at least there’s no tipping on the scooter. If you figure a budget of $20 per scooter rider for a week of vacation, it’s a reasonable entertainment expense, and worth it in that regard. I saw lots of kids riding them around, and it’s a cutting edge way to give your kids some mobility and freedom of exploration. I can definitely see this catching on in resort towns as a fun way to zip to the beach or get ice cream with the family.

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About the Author

About the Author: Pat Barcas serves as staff writer and photographer for RTX Traveler Magazine, based in Asheville, NC. His favorite RTX destinations are on the beach: Orange Beach, Alabama, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. .

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