Midtown News Center

Curbside Test Drive: Our Team Reviews Midtown’s New Scooter and Bike Options

One afternoon. Five transportation options. See the results from our staff test drive of the latest dockless scooters and bikes.

Published: 7/12/18

Bright yellow and blue bicycles. Lime colored and avian-named scooters. They’ve cropped up all over Midtown and Downtown in recent months, each bearing QR codes with an invitation to quickly and cheaply get you somewhere you might not otherwise walk. The dockless transportation movement is here. These new mobility options present opportunities in the district, but they also bring some growing pains. Midtown Alliance sent two of our staffers out to test the latest offerings and share some feedback about the experience with each.

But first, a little background on the sudden emergence of these two-wheeled rides...

Much like the technology sector, most of these dockless transportation companies are in a start-up phase and scaling up quickly. Santa Monica-based Bird Rides is valued at $2B today: the company formally launched in the fall of 2017. Ofo is based out of Beijing and has grown to 10 million bikes in 250 cities since it was founded in 2014. Wait, make that 249 cities. That’s how quickly the dockless scoreboard can change, as city governments - including here in Atlanta - try to keep pace with this latest wave of disruptive transportation. At the end of the day, we think it’s neat that all of these start-ups have their optics on the City of Atlanta as the test bed for their new transportation ideas.

And now, our dockless test drive results...

Our methodology was pretty straightforward:

  • How convenient was it on a weekday afternoon to find any of the dockless options within a short walk of our offices at the corner of 10th and Peachtree?
  • How technologically easy was it to register in the app and start riding?
  • How comfortable and safe was it to ride a distance of 6-8 blocks?
  • How practical was the experience overall to become part of our Midtown routine?

Here we go…

Bird

Classification:

Scooter
 

Tester:

Brian
 

Convenience:

Found one less than a block away from the office.
 

Tech Ease:

It took about 3 minutes to download the app, enter contact info and credit card, upload a scan of my driver’s license, accept the terms and conditions, and skim through a tutorial on how to operate the scooter. One feature that was helpful was a battery charge indicator for the scooter I was about to ride, which let me know it had enough juice.
 

Comfort/Safety:

It was easy to balance and stand firm on the deck, though the scooter felt ultralight. The handlebar height is not adjustable, which may cause taller people to have to stoop a little in order to reach the grips. The throttle on the right-hand grip makes the scooter go, and it was very responsive. Operating speed felt comfortable around 5-8 MPH, but a little shakier at the top speed of 15 MPH.
 

Practicality for Midtown:

Having access to Birds seems like a good option for walking trips beyond a handful of blocks. For example, it could become a go-to option for a midday trek to the Woodruff Arts Center for a meeting. And in the wilting summer heat, I perspired less on my trip than if I had walked.

 

Lime

Classification:

Scooter
 

Tester:

Sally
 

Convenience:

This was a struggle. The closest Lime scooter was 7 blocks away from my office building, and when I arrived at the location, they were nowhere in sight. After circling around the apartment complex, and asking for assistance from the concierge, we came to the conclusion that residents might be hiding the scooters inside their apartments. Luckily, there was another scooter across the street.
 

Tech Ease: Thankfully, setting up was easier. In a few short minutes, I was able to geo-locate myself, input my billing info, and find a scooter on their interactive map. The feature I liked the most on the Lime scooter was their eco-friendly indicator. On my 9-minute ride home, I was able to save 369 grams of carbon from the environment.


Comfort/Safety:

The balance was stable and the scooter felt sturdy. Once on the scooter, I felt comfortable enough to ride it about 9 blocks back to my condo.


Practicality for Midtown:

The main issue I encountered on my joyride was the scooter’s inability to climb steep hills. Though Midtown is relatively flat, there are some hills around the district. The Lime scooter struggled going up a hill on Peachtree Walk, which left me pushing the scooter up to the corner.

 

Ofo

Classification:

Bike
 

Tester:

Brian
 

Convenience:

Got one three and a half blocks from the office at a bike rack.
 

Tech Ease:

Pretty easy to get into the app registration flow and get riding within less than five minutes. There was not as much info to transact in comparison with the scooters, but a substantial amount of the time was devoted to reading thru Ofo’s pitch for me to register with a pre-paid plan trial offer (by the week or in a three-month span). Ofo bikes feature a locking mechanism tucked under the seat and over the back wheel. A quick QR code scan was all it took for the lock to automatically open. After I finished my ride, I got to see a recap outlining total trip distance in feet, calories burned, and carbon savings. There also appears to be a gamification component, as I was awarded an “Ofo Score” at the end of my ride.
 

Comfort/Safety:

The Ofo bike features three speeds on the shifter, and it felt lighter and more responsive overall than prior experience riding a Relay bike. I liked the handlebar grips on the Ofo bike better, and the brake levers felt more substantive as well. Adjusting the seat was pretty easy before heading out. The basket in the front is a little smaller and not as deep as a Relay basket, and there’s a label on it that suggests a 5 kilogram max load (metric system, cute). The overall handling felt compact and serviceable.
 

Practicality for Midtown:

Makes sense as a means to fill in the distances between Relay docking stations, and allow for more spontaneity if someone happens upon an Ofo and wants to cruise.

 

Relay

Classification:

Bike
 

Tester:

Sally
 

Convenience:

We’re including this option in the reviews even though Relay has been established in Atlanta for more than a year now, with 500+ bikes at 70 docking stations throughout the city. Relay has recently eliminated Out of Hub fees, allowing riders to have a bit more flexibility while still enjoying the reliability that the stations provide. The bikes are heavy and built to withstand a beating in an urban environment.

Tech Ease:

The SoBi app was easy to get into. Much like the others, it’s about getting contact and payment info set up quickly. No big surprises, and I was done in under five minutes. 
 

Comfort/Safety: 

The bike itself is great. The basket is fairly large and fits my bag so I can travel hands-free. Like the Ofo bike, the Relay bike features gears that assist riders as they go up hill or on leveled streets. But Relay offers more gears to fine tune your ride. 
 

Practicality for Midtown:

Relay bikes are a great option for last-mile connections. They're established here, with 16 stations around Midtown, and finding a bike is easy. 

 

Muving

Classification:

Moped
 

Tester:

Brian
 

Convenience:

Spotted one right across the street from my office.
 

Tech Ease:

Notably, the first message to greet me on opening the app was an urgently-worded caution to park the moped in approved areas or I could get a ticket (more on this at the end of the article). Lots of fields to input. Way more than for the scooters. It took just shy of 10 minutes to get everything entered into the app. I had to type in my same contact info in a couple of different sections, put in credit card info and also had to include my mailing address. After all of this data entry, the app pushed me a “thank you” message for registering and that the next steps were for Muving staff to manually approve me to ride, and that I should check my e-mail later. So, no instant gratification to start riding right away. My green-light message arrived about a half hour after I registered, letting me know I was approved to go. I went back into the app and found my scooter and initiated a new ride.
 

Comfort/Safety:
We're on a totally different plane with the bulk and girth of the moped compared to bikes and scooters. This is a heavy piece of machinery, and much more involved to ride. The storage box on the back contains two helmets ... and a supply of disposable hair nets in plastic bags (helmet hygiene, I guess). There's more interaction with the helmet to get it disconnected from a security cable, and it takes two hands, so I had to put my phone down. But the app still needed to give me instructions about the sequence to unlock and operate the moped. The face shield on the helmet was pretty marred from another user, which impacted visibility enough that I chose to keep it raised. It was a little counterintuitive to get the kick stand up, but the rest of the ride and the controls were easy to use. Everything is on the handlebar, from the throttle to the brake to the directionals, and the ergonomics were intuitive. The throttle was extremely responsive, and acceleration was instantaneous. Had to really watch the speed heading into right-angle turns. The speed that felt most comfortable was around 15-20 MPH. Anything faster felt a little out of control. Braking was crisp. The seat position and footboard were comfortable.    

Practicality for Midtown:

This option hogs up the most space on the sidewalk. It's heavy, and a little awkward to start. It's positioned for longer haul trips than the bikes or scooters, but if someone needed to get all the way across Midtown for a meeting or event, it seems like it would be harder to prioritize the moped over a Lyft or Uber ride. 

Oh, and one more thing...if you’ve ridden any of these yet, chances are you’ve been doing it wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For each of these options, the fine print (that nobody reads) spells out that scooters and bikes should not be operated on sidewalks and riders should wear a helmet. But how many of us are actually abiding by these rules? By our visual observation, not many at all. Until enforcement catches up, we need some etiquette to prevail over the sidewalks. Please do not ride the scooters or bikes on sidewalks, as it makes conditions unsafe for people walking. Park them out of the way of foot traffic, and away from building entrances. And if you can plan for it, bring a helmet.