All Public Transit Issues Can Be Traced Back to the Ford Motor Company
It is appropriate that the subsidiary responsible for today’s transit misfortune is owned by the Ford Motor Company. Today, I dropped my bicycle off to get serviced. The guy at the shop recommended I walk over to a used shop in a nearby neighborhood since I said I was in the market for a cheap, beater backup bicycle.
I walk over. The shop doesn’t have anything currently, they’ll call me if something comes in. I’m now faced with a usually lovely but steep 2-mile walk home. Near the used shop, I noticed a Spin docking station. I have never ridden any companies dockless electric scooters or bikes on principle. Their initial roll-outs were sloppy, the companies intentionally endeavored to run rough shod over municipal regulations, and they often ended up blocking pedestrian paths when not in use. Plenty of reason to avoid them before touching one.
Since moving to this city, I have only seen them parked off the sidewalks or at docking stations. A welcome improvement. Recently, a friend used one for the first time and said it was not a horrid experience. For over five years, I’ve clung to my initial impressions. Today, I’d give the scooters a chance.
In the spirit of fairness, we’ll start with the good. The app walked you through a safety and rules explanation and followed up with a quiz. Not awful. The city limits your first ride to 10 mph – I will thank my local government for looking out. The app suggests I wear a helmet, and I happen to have one because I just dropped my bike off. It warns me to not ride on the sidewalk. Easy enough. I pay, I kick off, I am going ten miles per hour and having a great time. Perhaps my skepticism had been misplaced.
I picked the scooter up at a docking station near a lovely cemetery with paved roads that cars, pedestrians, and bicycles are welcome to use. Figuring that would be a safer route than being on the main roads, I entered through the gates. One hundred feet into the cemetery, the scooter beeps and the throttle stops working. My only guess is: The system detected that I was on a sidewalk.
I accept my fate, leave the cemetery, and resolve to stay on the road for the now 3-mile journey, since I can’t use my usual biking/walking shortcut. I keep the throttle maxed out and was well on my way. A mile into my ride, a person in a large truck (it is always a person in a large truck) called out, “nice car (derogatory),” before I turned the scooter on to the steepest street in this endeavor. Whatever, I thought, at least I wouldn’t have to sweat the whole way up this stupid hill.
While riding up the steepest part of the hill, I am close to but not on the sidewalk. Vehicles often travel in excess of 30 miles per hour here, and I’m trying to stay out of the way. The system then detects that I am on a sidewalk, screams its infernal scream, and kills the power to the wheels. The steep incline plus the sudden decrease in power almost jolts me off the scooter.
I walk the scooter more into the middle of the road and toggle the throttle as I’m walking. A good 15 to 30 feet later, it begins working again. I make it to one of this road’s switchbacks, where there are several parked scooters. At this point, I’m about a mile away from home and decide to abandon the scooter with its peers. The remainder of the way home has yet more hill, more speeding cars, and a batch of construction that the system will probably not understand me navigating through and freak out about.
From start to finish, the sins Spin visited upon me are: 1) at the outset forcing me onto a longer route (more money for them) 2) the longer route put me into closer and more frequent contact with vehicles 3) their GPS had enough false positives that the system cut power during the most dangerous part of my ride 4) Spin did not spare me from sweating up the hill 5) Spin charged me over $8 for the experience.
To any customer service representative who may see to this, know that I do not want you to waste yours or my time and that the single best thing that could happen is that the Ford Motor Company has their assets seized and liquidated to fund public transit that doesn’t surveil people, impose costly burdens on them, reduce their agency, and actively put them in harm’s way.