Technology is helping to make explorers out of visitors. This realization became clear to me on a visit to Arizona. Entrepreneurs have now used technology to enable a dizzying array of options for rolling through town to see the sights. It used to be a quaint idea to rent bikes from a cycle store for a day to see the sights at street level. But that took a modicum of planning. Planning is in short supply when I’m on down-time, so the rental bikes never materialized.
No planning needed anymore. Now, all you need to do download an app, locate nearby bikes on using the app, scan the barcode, and you’re in business. These aren’t any old bikes. They’re motor assisted bikes. And don’t worry about returning the bike when you’re done. Scan in, scan out. With a few limitations, you can electronically end the rental and leave your wheeled transport anywhere. For me, this is real freedom. Because the bikes are motor assisted, I can go as long and far as I want without any real worry about whether I have enough stamina to make it back to the start again. My radius of exploring has gone from a few miles to as far as I want. This is how we roll now.
This new era of rental transportation is not limited to bikes. Motorized scooters are everywhere.
There seem to be countless options available to those who just want to roll with it. In Scottsdale and environs I have encountered a number of companies for bike rentals, including Jump, which is an extension of Uber, and Lyft. There are Razor Scooters for those who want to sit and scoot. Lime, which is, you guessed it, lime coloured, has both scooters and motorized bikes. Bird scooters are available in some places, but are not as ubiquitous as the others.
There is little, so far, that seems to separate one company from another, except for the availability of the bike or scooter when and where you want it.
For the traveller who wants to cover more ground than can be achieved by walking, who wants freedom to hop on and hop off at will, these pay-as-you-go options have opened up a lot of possibilities and fun. But there are some downsides.
They can be a hazard. You’re on holiday, you’re feeling good, and you decide to hop on a motorized scooter — which you’ve never driven before —because it looks fun. It is fun! But you’ve got no helmet, and it’s been… what… 10 years since you rode on two wheels?
Cities like Scottsdale have lots of bike paths and an extensive trail system, but sometimes to get there you have to scoot down busy streets. Inattentive or careless scooter riders or cyclists can be a hazard to drivers as well as to themselves. So where possible, keep it on the path, scooters! Oh… and stay off gravel paths if you don’t want to wipe out.
These electronic rentals are tracked by GPS. With the app, you can locate bikes and scooters near you, just like you might search for a nearby Starbucks. And like Starbucks, walk one block downtown and you will likely find one. At the end of the day, the bikes or scooters are rounded up and redistributed around the city. Or, if you are one to plan ahead, you can arrange to have a Bird dropped off at your doorstep overnight, so you’re ready to roll in the morning.
If you like to roll, but you’d rather have a tour-guide to show you around, Segway tours are a fun option. Pretty much every American city offers a Segway tour. In Scottsdale, our go-to is Scottsdale Segway Tours. We’ve done this tour twice over the past few years, and its always fun and informative. And when else will you get to drive a Segway? OK, this one does require advance planning, and it’s not as free-form. But what you lose in spontaneity, you make up in information. The tour guides are great at giving first-time visitor’s the Cole’s Notes on Old Town Scottsdale.
Whether you take a Segway tour, rent a motorized bike, or hop on a scooter, the options for rolling around the Phoenix area are plentiful. Have, fun, and roll with it.