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AucklandOctober 23, 2018

Are Auckland’s new Lime e-scooters any good? And how do they compare to OnZos?


Madeleine Chapman rode to Huntly on an OnzO bike. Sadly, she won’t be doing the same with a Lime scooter.

Imagine a life with no ups and downs. No struggles, but no cruise mode. An infinite plateau. It would be boring, yes, and mundane, but you’d never have to sweat. I thought my life would be a sweatless existence once Lime’s e-scooters were released. Electric scooters for hire, dropped around the city and ready to go. I could finally wear grey to work in the summer. I could stop wearing a sports bra to the supermarket. I could sell my pores.

After being OnzO’s biggest user and advocate, I was ready to move on. The sole reason being that OnzO is bad. They’ve got a monopoly so I still check the app when I’m about to walk to work (they’re almost never nearby) but the product and the service is bad. On two separate occasions I’ve been charged $200 for a single ride because the bike malfunctioned during the unlocking process. I was refunded both times but their approach to customer service is, to put it mildly, hands-off. I’ve ridden a lot of broken bikes and looked forlornly into homes where people have hidden others.

The promise of an easy-to-rent machine requiring less effort than the single-gear OnzO was exactly the news I wanted. But the promise of something better is pretty much the only good thing about Lime e-scooters.

I saw one listed on the app at the bottom of a steep street. Perfect. After walking right to the bottom, it was nowhere to be found. Still on the app, just not in real life. So I turned around and walked back up. Sweaty.

There was another one showing up two blocks away, down a steep-but-not-as-steep street. I walked down, still sweating, and unlocked the lonely beast. Time to zoom back up and out of this valley. Oh how I laugh now to look back on my naiveté. I zoomed nowhere. What I did do was scoot, with my legs, up a hill, on the heaviest scooter in the world. With the accelerator on the floor, so to speak, I only had to push off 50 times instead of 100. Biking would’ve been faster. Walking would’ve been easier. I sweated some more.

The rules and conditions on the Lime app are:

A helmet is required
Obey all traffic laws
Don’t ride downhills
Have a valid driver’s licence
You are 18 years or older
Ride at your own risk
One rider per Lime-S

OnzO vs Lime pricing

Whether these rules and conditions are even legal I do not know. But given it takes all of a credit card and a phone to access the scooters, literally none of these rules can be monitored. Requiring a valid licence suggests the scooters are made for the road. Telling people not to ride downhill suggests they’re not. A helmet being required is for the road. A speed cap of 30km/h is not. The rules make no sense but I tried to follow them anyway.

I had taken a helmet (allowed) because I knew I’d be going down the notoriously-steep Bond St (not allowed). I got up to a flashy 39km/h and didn’t feel very safe, mostly because the scooters have clearly been speed capped at 30km/h so it felt like the scooter was actively trying to slow down while also picking up speed naturally going down a hill. To add insult to injury (and much like an OnzO), the scooter carried approximately zero momentum into the incline and pretty soon I was riding an electric vehicle while also powering it with my legs. My plans to never perspire again were drowning somewhere in my abundant back sweat.

At lunch, my colleague Tina and I wanted to eat on the banks of the Eden Park outer oval and watch some cricket. Eden Park is less than 500 metres from our office so we planned to walk. But there was a Lime scooter and an OnzO bike both parked outside so we rode them instead.

The scooter fared a lot better on the one incline than my other rides had. Perhaps I’d picked two dud scooters for my first two rides. But two dud scooters in the first three days of service isn’t good. The OnzO was the same as usual. Slow, clunky, good for the quads.

When we arrived at Eden Park nine minutes later, we locked up the two vehicles and checked the cost of each trip.

Lime: $3.80
OnzO: $0.25

At 30c per minute, Lime scooters are genuinely expensive, especially when they don’t go all that fast. OnzO bikes might go as slow as your quads can work but it’ll only cost you a dollar an hour for the pain. Isn’t it wonderful how I began this article despising OnzO and will now end it endorsing OnzO because something even worse presented itself. Is this … capitalism?

The concept of rental bikes or scooters in a big city makes sense. But when all you get is a poorly-executed version of a good idea, you might as well have nothing. If I see an OnzO on my walk home from work, there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll ride it, simply because if nothing else it’ll be a cheap break from walking. If I see a Lime scooter, I’ll laugh and keep walking, saving 30c a minute in the process.

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