What Are Rideables and How Do They Work?

  • Brian Leon is a freelance automotive journalist and former Associate Editor of the New York Daily News Autos. He is currently a master student at Uppsala University in Sweden studying marketing and completing a thesis in the area of trust in autonomous vehicles.

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You may have noticed a significant uptick in recent years in the number of city dwellers zipping around on electric-powered skateboards, scooters, and bikes, and like every tech trend, this phenomenon has a name: “rideables.” You may also be thinking: “What the heck is a rideable?” I know, I was too. But as it turns out, they’re more popular than ever, and may even change the way we get around in the not-so-distant future. Simply put, a rideable is anything with a small electric motor that you can use to travel short distances at relatively low speeds. Bicycles, skateboards, scooters, hoverboards, and even unicycles are all popping up with battery packs and electric motors, all available for purchase or short-term use in a myriad of ways. One could argue the trend started with the now-famous Segway all the way back in 2001, but these devices are now everywhere and might be more useful to you than you’d think.

What Rideables Can I Use With an App?

Woman riding a Lime scooter
Electric scooters are popular alternatives to walking or using public transportation, especially in cities where the weather is usually nice. (Lime)
The most popular app-based rideables at the moment are electric scooters that you can locate with your phone, rent for a short period of time, and discard anywhere in the city in which it’s available. Need a quick way to get a mile or two down the road but don’t have a bike and don’t want to drive or take public transit? That’s where a rideable comes in. Bird and Lime are the leaders in this arena, and brand themselves as “last mile” mobility solutions that aim to “make cities more livable by reducing car usage, traffic, and carbon emissions.” With either service, using one of the scooters is easy. Simply download the Bird or Lime app, find a scooter near you, tap a button to unlock it, hop on, and start your ride (but don’t forget to bring your own helmet and some cold or wet weather gear if your climate calls for it). You can ride in bike lanes or on the street, but riding on sidewalks is prohibited for the safety of pedestrians. When you’re done, simply leave the scooter wherever you want and tap the button in the app to end your ride. Your account will be charged based on the time used, which amounts to $1 to unlock and $0.15 per mile for Bird scooters. Lime offers scooters as well as electrically assisted bicycles in certain cities, but the laws vary by city and state, so these apps aren’t available everywhere. Uber also offers a new electric scooter and e-bike sharing service called Jump in 13 U.S. cities, and Bird and Lime are both available in over 100 cities in the U.S. and Europe, so check to see if yours is on the list.

Which Rideables Can I Purchase for Myself?

Electric skateboard from Boosted Boards
Electric skateboards are a popular rideable option, with Boosted Boards being some of the most popular for their range and speed. (Boosted Boards)
When it comes to personally owned rideables, the list is even more extensive. On the high-end of the price spectrum are electric bicycles, which can run up to $5,000 or more for a top-of-the-line model from popular cycle maker Specialized. As these bikes are charged while you pedal, the total range can vary, but if you already commute by bicycle or have been considering it and want a bit of extra boost beyond your own leg strength, electric bikes are an option. Commute-worthy scooters are also gaining in popularity, including Ojo, which was recently licensed by none other than the Ford Motor Company. Ojo’s Commuter Scooter comes in three varieties, ranging from $2,000 to $2,400, and has a top speed of 20 mph and a range of 25 miles, which can be doubled with an add-on battery pack. And if you thought Segways were a thing of the past, think again. The company now makes several mini hoverboard-like products, electric scooters, and has even introduced electric roller skates with single wheels on each foot. Prices range from as little as $400 to over $3,000 for the wide range of Segway products. Finally, the other major rideable you’re likely to see around is the electric skateboard, of which there are many varieties. Some of these boards can reach speeds of over 20 mph and cost around $1,000 to $1,500. Boosted Boards and ZBoard are two of the most popular options and boast ranges of 12 to 24 miles. If you do decide to get into, or, as the case may be, onto rideables, make sure to obey local laws and regulations regarding electrified vehicles, and always use a helmet when riding.

About the Author

  • Brian Leon is a freelance automotive journalist and former Associate Editor of the New York Daily News Autos. He is currently a master student at Uppsala University in Sweden studying marketing and completing a thesis in the area of trust in autonomous vehicles.

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