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Ridin’ (Not So) Dirty

Ridin’ (Not So) Dirty

Danny Hamen

When I was in college, I rode the bus four times a day. I don’t mean the scarlet-tipped Campus Area Bus Service (CABS) that you see whizzing around OSU half-full of wide-eyed kids ready to tackle the first step of adulthood. No, I am talking about the plain ol’ COTA—the bulbous-faced goliaths that tardily chug up and down our city streets with zero patience, where everyone aboard, driver included, looks exhausted no matter the time of day.

Though my time on the bus was mostly positive save for a few foul-smelling strangers, I always day-dreamed of an alternative form of public transportation in Columbus that didn’t involve a pseudo-ambiguous schedule and multiple transfers to get to my destination. When the Car2Go arrived in our city, I was delighted, gaily zipping through the city streets in my miniature clown car. Apparently there wasn’t enough of me, since that carsharing dream recently fell by the wayside due to lack of interest. While it wasn’t a tangentially affordable alternative to owning a car, it was an interesting concept that had an array of convenient benefits.

To quote Ginsberg, with death comes rebirth.

While the lifecycle of Car2Go has expired, a myriad of alternative transportation methods have taken its place, each more unique than the last. While taking the COTA is a certainly a suitable method to get from A to B, it is nice that we now have options that don’t rely on outside variables. (Besides, there is no worse feeling than waking up late and sprinting unshowered to the bus stop, only to find the COTA pass you by on a rainy Monday morning.)


Let’s face it: nobody looks cool riding an electric scooter. But much like finger painting, segways, pedal wagons, and themed sweater vests, most fun things in life subtract from your total number of accumulated cool points, and that is just fine. I was in Oakland last month, and I remember seeing a fleet of these electric scooters scattered across the city, so, as any normal tourist would do, I downloaded the app, hopped on, and zipped to the nearest museum with a legal joint hanging from my lips. And in some bizarre turn of the universe, when I got home from my weeklong voyage, a flock of Birds materialized to welcome me home.


For $1 to unlock and a measly 15 cents per minute, Bird is easily the cheapest alternative transportation method available. All you do is search the app for a nearby scooter, unlock it by scanning the QR code one with your phone, and off you go. At night, a fleet of “chargers” pick up the scooters and charge them at their homes so they are ready to go the next day. In addition to the fun utility that the scooters provide, Bird has pledged to donate a dollar per day per scooter to our city.


Though not as noticeable (yet) in Columbus, lots of Californians have complained that the proliferation of scooters have littered city sidewalks, to the point where the #scootersbehavingbadly has become a popular hashtag on twitter, leading to a citywide ban in San Francisco. The Bird philosophy of begging for forgiveness rather than asking for permission has gotten the company in some hot water, most recently in St. Louis, which has demanded the company take their business elsewhere after showing up without a permit.


While on the surface, Zipcar might seem like a reimagining of the Car2Go model, there are some key differences that makes this car sharing program stand out from its now defunct competitor. One major change is that instead of rolling around in a claustrophobia-inducing smart car, you have the option of choosing a car you’d like to drive, like a Honda Civic for instance. Other than that, the ideology remains mostly the same. You pay seven bucks a month, reserve a time slot, and rent the car for 9-10$ an hour depending on your choice of ride.


Getting to choose your ride is certainly a positive benefit of the Zipcar model, and the price point isn’t terrible if you are just needing a quick ride to the grocery store without the hassle and price of recruiting two seperate Uber drivers to help you haul kitty litter. As for a full-day rental, the prices are comparable to Hertz and other competitors, especially considering that gas is included in the price. (They even leave a credit card in the dash for you to fill it up yourself if needed. Just don’t use it to buy beer; I’m sure they will find out.)


One major flaw with the Zipcar is the inability to park it wherever you’d like. Each car has a specific parking location that you must pick it up and drop it off at, which makes it a) a completely unviable mode of transportation to work unless you are willing to drop 80 bucks to borrow it for the full day, and b) completely useless unless you live within walking distance to one of the limited number of designated parking spots that have recently popped up around town.

Electric Ave.

Much like the difference between ZipCar and Car2Go, Electric Ave. offers its patrons the luxury of variety, boasting a wide selection futuristic motorized vehicles, from electric bikes to hi-tec one-wheeled boards. For $35 a weekday ($50 on the weekends), Electric Ave. is an interesting way to get from A to B.


Without the burden of repetition, it is safe to say that any way to decrease the necessity of owning a vehicle is always a good thing, and riding an electric bike is as fun as it sounds. The bikes are pedal-assist, with nine speed settings, meaning you get a boost when you pedal, rather than a continuous motor. Topping out at 20 MPH (with plenty of work on your end) makes it feel swift and safe. A concierge service is available, too, which means that within 10 miles of their location you can get a bike dropped off for free (and $1 for every mile outside of that range).


Much like the ZipCar, unless you live near one locations, this isn’t a reasonable alternative for your daily commute, but more of a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We test-rode one and immediately had us imagining a drive up old 23 to the beach at Alum Creek (that’s a pro inside a con!). It is a lot of bike, though. Manageable, yes, but more than just you average cruiser.


Lime is another recent manifestation of the dockless ridesharing program, boasting slick lime green manual bicycles for $1 an hour or $25 a month. Their most recent infiltration into the greater Dublin area has made the Lime the most abundant of the shared bicycles that you can find.


In many ways, Lime Bike shares the same philosophy as Bird, which can be good or bad depending on how you feel about dockless ridesharing programs. Regardless, providing affordable and reliable transportation to people in need, while simultaneously encouraging physical activity, should always be viewed as a step in the right direction.


Much like Bird, many many cities have complained that these bikes are littering the streets, often found tipped over, blocking sidewalks and walkways. So, we find ourselves at a crossroads—both of these programs present a positive opportunity to provide our city with an affordable and effective means of transportation (unless it is raining), but due to humanity’s inability to clean up after themselves, we are left with a a city littered of discarded scooters and bicycles. I guess it’s true what my mother always told my rambunctious five-year-old self: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”


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