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Startups tackle the “Last Mile” with electric scooters, bikes

Easy to rent electric bikes and scooters are popping up on sidewalks in cities across America. They’re fast and easy for consumers but a proving to be a challenge to regulators.

In cities across America, riders are hopping on a new breed of rentable electric scooters and dockless bikes, both can be left pretty much anywhere when you’re done riding.

“The problem we’re solving is it’s too short to drive and too long to walk” explained Stephen Schnell of Bird, one of the fastest growing electric scooter rental startups.

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You can sign up to rent the scooters from your phone with a credit card and a driver’s license. Use their app to locate a free Bird near you, and you’re on your way.  Rides are a dollar to start, then 15 cents a mile.

They’ll even send you a free helmet.

“People are really excited about Bird,” said Schnell.

Well, not everyone, San Francisco recently sent cease and desist letters to Bird and similar companies including LimeBike.

“An electric boost bike gives you extra assist while pedaling so you can go as fast as 15 miles an hour,” explained Caen Contee, head of marketing for LimeBike.

He showed me the company’s latest “e-assist” bike, which has a range of 62 miles. It costs a dollar to ride every 10 minutes.

“Ultimately what’s important here is the smart lock…  when it’s locked, scan this QR code or put in any of these license plate numbers [and] this lock will automatically open – beginning your ride,” said Contee.

When you’re done, you can leave LimeBike in a safe public place. The company eventually retrieves it to re-charge the battery.

“That’s the vision: that you don’t really have to think about boundaries anymore with bike-share,” said Contee.

While riders are loving these new ways to get around, cities are left trying to figure out how to regulate these growing industries. Bird told me they plan to expand to 50 cities in 2018 alone.

“There’s a clear problem…  it’s hard to get around cities. Cities are getting more congested and this last mile issue is a hard issue to solve – we think we have the solution,” concluded Schnell of Bird.