Micromobility: the Prose and Poetry of the Scooter-Faithful

WIRED | 2/5/2019 | Aarian Marshall
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Before he took the stage, before, even, most of the 650 participants’ sat in their seats, James Gross started riding around the cavernous, crowded Craneway Pavilion on a red Jump electric bike. Ding, ding, ding, he rang the bike’s tinny bell: A priest swinging a thurible into the sanctuary, a rabbi tying the belt of his kittel before the first prayers. After a few laps, Gross, the cofounder of a marketing software startup who has taken a sharp turn into all things transport, steered the pedal-assist bicycle onto a platform and convened the faithful. The first-ever Micromobility Conference had begun.

The event’s manifesto, laid out in sentence-long paragraphs on the last page of a thick, graph-replete booklet titled Handbook: Prose & Poetry, gave extra gravity to the Bay Area morning. “Micromobility is a big word for a small idea,” it read. “The idea is small in the sense that it represents machines that are small. Machines that are sized to the job at hand: moving people. And not sized to the process that makes them move. Machines made to fit us, not their internal violent reactions.” Two-ton cars powered by internal combustion, consider yourselves irrelevant.

Back - Hall - Conference - Attendees - Manner

Toward the back of the hall, the mostly male, investor-heavy conference attendees piloted all manner of wheeled gizmos through an obstacle course of yellow cones: hovershoes, electric unicycles, a slim, white e-scooter that looked like an iPod with wheels. In the middle of the presentations, a man in a suit took an electric skateboard on slow spin about the entire room. Others clustered around the electric-assist velomobile from the Canadian company Veemo. Lyft, which now owns a bike-share company, hosted the “Micromobility Valet”, which seemed to mostly mean that stored attendees’ nifty-looking bikes.

But the people were here, mostly, because of scooters.

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