Bird scooter in Arlington. Image by the author.

Most scooter trips are short. I usually ride them around a mile. But recently I tried a bit longer trip: three miles from downtown DC to Arlington, on a Bird. Here are four lessons I learned along the way:

1. After 2.5 miles, the motor was useless

Even with plenty of battery power left, my motor sputtered out after about 2.5 miles. Maybe it overheated, or maybe I just got unlucky, or maybe it was something else. Regardless, my electric scooter was on 90% human power after the Key Bridge, despite a battery that still had 50% of its charge.

I parked and switched to a fresh scooter for the steep climb up the Rosslyn escarpment, and sped away successfully.

2. Scooters move slower than bikes over distance

On short trips, scooters are arguably more convenient than bikes. They're easier to park, easier to start and stop, nimbler when navigating amid pedestrians, and they certainly move faster than walking.

But until trying a longer trip, it wasn't fully apparent to me how much slower scooters move than bicylces. According to Bird's ride history, it took me 28 minutes of riding to go 3.3 miles—good for 7.1 miles per hour.

I'm not a fast bicycle rider. Quite the opposite. But even I am faster than that. For comparison, I also rode a Jump electric-assist bike yesterday, over an equal distance from Trinidad into downtown DC. On the Jump, it took me 23 minutes to go 3.3 miles—8.6 miles per hour.

Granted I was on different streets, but the difference was noticable while riding. On the Jump, I move at a speed that feels comfortable to me compared to cars on city streets. The scooter feels uncomfortably slower than cars.

As a result, I'm less likely to ride a scooter in mixed traffic with cars than I am a bike.

3. Gravel paths or stairchannels? Nope

Anyone who's ridden a scooter even a short distance knows that the ride feels a lot different from a bike. Scooters' smaller wheels make for a bumpier ride, on which you have to pay more attention to potholes and other dips and rises.

So it was no great surprise when, upon trying to cross over Georgetown's gravel C&O Canal Towpath, I had to pick up and carry the scooter.

It was, however, a bit of a surprise that I had to carry the scooter up the 34th Street steps, despite the presence of a wonderful bicycle stairchannel.

Georgetown's 34th Street stairchannel.  Image by Will Handsfield used with permission.

Stairchannels are great, easy ways to help bikes up stairs. I'm a big fan, and I totally trusted Georgetown to have one here.

But when I tried to roll my scooter up the channel, the scooter only tipped forward. With front wheel drive and a center of mass that skews high and forward, the scooter's rear wheel lifted up uncontrollably. It was easier to ignore the channel and lift the scooter up the steps.

4. The K Street bikeway (scooterway) is a joy

OK, this is not strictly a scooter comment. But the new protected bikeway underneath the Whitehurst Freeway was the best part of my trip. If you haven't used it yet, give it a try on bike or scooter.

Georgetown's new K Street protected bikeway. Image by the author.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado and lives in Trinidad, DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post. Dan blogs to express personal views, and does not take part in GGWash's political endorsement decisions.