Today, Wired advises you to “Stop Renting E-Scooters Every Day and Just Buy One Already!”, which may or may not be good advice in terms of your own safety and the safety of others, but if you like the idea, you don’t need to spend $1000-$1600 to risk your neck and the necks of everyone else on your commute.
Many cities have banned e-scooter short-hire vehicles and are impounding them, and in other cities, repo men have been busily seizing scooters left on private property, and the e-scooter companies, who already lose money on every scooter (they’re making it up in volume!) just abandon their scooters to rust away in impound lots and turn into e-waste.
Which means that you can pick up scooters for pocket-change in municipal auctions! There’s only one problem: the control units of these scooters only take orders from companies like Bird and Lime, so even after you own one of these things, you can’t ride it without paying an overcapitalized bezzle for the privilege.
That is…not unless you swap out the control unit! For $30 or less, you can get a conversion kit that swaps in with just a few screws’ worth of fiddling. Once you do that, that city impound scooter becomes your scooter, at a price so cheap you can buy two!
This strategy is totally legal, and totally toxic to Bird and Lime’s business model, and boy do they know it: last year, Bird threatened to sue me for writing about this in a bid to keep the news from spreading. Luckily, we recognized the hollowness of their threat and, with help from our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, we were able to force them to back down and issue an apology (albeit not a very good one).
Consider this our bit of service journalism for the day: if you really want to own your own e-scooter, don’t contribute to the growing mountains of e-waste created by these things. Instead, help your city defray the costs of impounding the scooters that feckless, overcapitalized companies like Bird and Lime have littered our streets with, blocking wheelchair and stroller access and putting other sidewalk users at risk from high-speed, potentially lethal “personal transports.”
Via Youtube and The Ontario Provincial Police: A public safety film narrated by Peter Fonda with special guest Evel Knievel who provide safety tips and guidance for motorcycle riders. Features performance riding by the Los Angeles Police Department. (OPP Museum accession number 2012.51.5) Credits and Copyright: Filmfair Communications Incorporated (1973)
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