NEW YORK (AP) – Loves them or hates them, electric scooters are everywhere – zipping along the city streets and stroking the sidewalks, the horror of pedestrians and drivers who have to share the road.
And now they have overtaken station-based bicycles as the most popular form of joint transit and car transportation in the United States
According to a new report released Wednesday by the National Association of City Transportation officials, riders took 38.5 million trips on shared electric scooters in 2018, eclipsing the 36,500,000 trips on shared, docked bikes.
Riders also took trips of 3 million dockless pedal bikes, which can be picked up and dropped off anywhere and 6.5 million dockless electric bikes in 201
A Reason for Electric Scooters' Rapid Growth: Companies are strategically jockeying in the so-called micromobility revolution, where consumers are referred to as shared scooters and bicycles for short trips and explore options for car ownership maintained by the ubiquity of smartphones.
Riders took 84 million trips on micro-mobility services in 2018, more than double the number from the previous year, according to the report. Electric scooters helped drive that trend, with over 85,000 of them available for public use in the United States compared to 57,000 stationary bikes.
For sure, scooter companies are faced with challenges from all directions, including vandalism, theft, rider wounds, intense competition and aggressive rules in cities across the country.
Nevertheless, the industry continues, and venture capitalists, agitated companies and traditional automakers have garnered millions of dollars for the big business.
The original bike sharing systems in the United States developed after the cities invited them in, said Kate Fillin-Yeh, director of the National Association for City Transport Officers Strategy.
"In the last year and a half it's a completely different animal" she said. "In some cases, companies are trying to beat each other to the market."
Bird, a Santa Monica-based scooter company launched in late 2017, increased $ 418 million and was over 10 million rides in its first year. Lime, which offers shared bikes and scooters, clocked more than 12 million rides and $ 467 million in investment in the first 15 months.
Car manufacturers and riding companies notice, and some have made their own games in the room with greater ambitions than scooters alone.
Uber bought Jump Bikes, an electric bicycle and scooter company operating in around two dozen cities, and last year invested $ 30 million in Lime, located in more than 100 cities worldwide.  Ford, which bought the scooter company Spin in November, said that the use of electric scooters will eventually help the company roll out autonomous vehicles by building critical relationships with US cities as they work together to create regulations and build infrastructure.
"In this next switch of micromobility, cities take a more active stance on how to participate," said Sunny Madra, vice president of Ford's mobility business, told The Associa Ted Press late last year. Autonomous programs and other forms of mobility that will come up, this is a great way for us to ensure that we are part of the transformation of mobility. "
If it seems that electric scooters appeared overnight, that's because Several companies distributed them throughout the cities without permission or permission, and reminded local officials when shipping companies such as Uber launched in their markets many years ago without warning
But cities learned from that experience and have been more aggressive About Regulating Scooters San Francisco, for example, kicked out Bird, Lime and Spin and initiated a permit competition, eventually allocating them to relative underdogs Scoot and Ships and capping numbers scooters they could distribute. New York City does not allow shared electric scooters, although the legislation has been introduced to change the rule.
As a condition for operating there, many cities require scooter companies to share their beliefs in location data showing where scooters are and routes they take. Planning routes and docking stations or understanding traffic patterns can be valuable.
It also raises questions about users' privacy. Location data provided to cities is not associated with names, emails or other directly identifiable information, but "if you take enough GPS data points and start attaching other datasets, it can be used to identify specific people," Regina said. Clewlow, CEO of Populus, a company that helps cities secure access to policy and planning data while protecting privacy.
Another consequence of electric scooters is head injuries. Dr. Vishal Bansal, head of trauma surgery at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego, noticed that many riders came on scooters at night, drunk without having a helmet, and took "30, 40 years of what we learned about injury prevention and have just threw it out of the window, he said.
"If your head hits concrete at 20 miles per hour, you're not going to get up," said Christopher Ziebell, Emergency Room health care professional at Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin. "These have small, small wheels on them, so it doesn't take much for a rider to fly off."
Some industry watchers wonder how long the electric scooter phenomenon will last. Veteran auto analyst Maryann Keller calls billions of dollar valuations that have become Reported to some scooter companies nonsensically, scooters are a capital-intensive business, and there are few ways to distinguish themselves from competitors' models, making it difficult for companies to stand out, she said.
"These little fads come and go , "Keller said.
For those who want a scooter ride, they may have to wait a little longer.
Follow Cathy Bussewitz on Twitter: @cbussewitz