Anyone who thinks scooting is just for the kids needs to take a look at Brian Rainey.
On a lunch break from his job at the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners, Rainey, 50, was using a new electric Lime scooter to travel five miles round-trip from Union Station to a gym, as he’s been doing much of the summer.
Not that scooting is hard.
“I’m cautious,” said Rainey, who had no trouble getting the hang of Bird scooters, the city’s first taste of 250-watt way of travel. “I feel every bump, even manhole covers.
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“No problem. I’m just a big kid.”
Early Tuesday, the metro’s available “dockless scooters” almost doubled, with 250 Lime-S models joining the 300 Bird electric scooters already here. The total may grow to 1,000 within weeks — half Limes, half Birds — under agreements with the city.
What may also grow, if the Lime company is correct, are the numbers of riders who actually remember an era before anyone uttered the word “app.”
Older users shouldn’t take this the wrong way, but Sam Sadle, Lime’s director of strategic development, points out that Lime “is a little beefier, a little bulkier.” It sports higher handlebars than the sleeker Bird.
In a scooter-sharing world dominated by millennials, could “beef” and “bulk” draw more of their elders?
Lime is aiming for a demographic “between 18 and 80,” Sadle said. “My mother is in her 60s, my father in his 70s, and they ride these around their home in Portland, Oregon. They love it.”
For his part, rider Rainey hardly noticed any difference between a Lime and a Bird.
The Lime “maybe has a little more kick,” he said, “and the platform is a little broader.” For him, neither handling nor design is much of an issue on either ride.
For Brennan Dohlman, 18, and Damiyon Larabee, 19, either brand will do, too. But on Tuesday, the two friends from Liberty had not yet downloaded the smartphone app that would let them locate the new Limes.
They drove from home to downtown Kansas City just to scoot around on Birds. They liked its retro feel.
“What caught my notice was that it looks like a throwback to the Razor (scooter),” Larabee said.
As the ridership rises, both Lime and Bird, along with city officials, reminded users Tuesday they must be at least 18, they should wear helmets (relatively few do), avoid sidewalks (though scooters along some walks during rush hour can outnumber pedestrians).
Some municipalities have temporarily banned the scooters over aggravation involving riders zipping around automobile traffic and leaving them cluttered on pedestrian walkways. The Country Club Plaza briefly forbade Bird riders from leaving scooters around, but Bird and the Plaza made peace after agreeing to work together on safety education and a helmet giveaway.
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority reiterated its enthusiasm for working with scooter providers to integrate so-called “last-mile transportation,” a way of easily getting from a public transit stop to a workplace or retail shop.
“It’s the wave of the future,” said City Councilman Jermaine Reed, who heads the Transportation Infrastructure Committee.
Reed attended a noontime ceremony outside the Gem Theater to “unlock,” via app, more than a dozen of the new Lime scooters.
Supporters seemed unfazed by some concerns about the city reaching a saturation point of whizzing two-wheelers.
“Every scooter on the road is one less person in a car,” said Lime’s Sadle.
And as if on cue, up drove to the Gem cousins Debra Owens and Tanya Basie in a green Chevy Blazer.
Both are 60.
“I think I would use one of those. You can get from a bus to job interview,” Owens told a scooting Reed through the driver’s side window.
“That’s exactly what I want to hear,” the councilman said. “You’ll never get too old to try it.”