Despite the sudden recent demise of Neuron, electric scooters are still zipping through Bangkok — at least in its old quarter.
Operating only in the tourist-heavy Rattanakosin area, Bangkok startup Scoota offers a zippy alternative to sweaty walks or taxi hassles as a means to not only beat the traffic, but help lower carbon output. Last month marked one year since Scoota rolled out at 12 stations, which have since expanded to 15.
They mostly cover must-see sightseeing spots such as the Grand Palace, Khaosan Road, the Giant Swing and even Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s biggest flower market.
They got a boost earlier this year when German Ambassador Georg Schmidt was spotted carrying a folded-up e-scooter through a BTS station. The photo went viral and Schmidt was praised for his commuting humility. It turned out that, yes, it was a Scoota dangling from his arm.
Schmidt is a regular user, and last week he even invited the top environment minister, Varawut Silpa-archa, for a Scoota-powered spin at his residence.
“Carbon emissions and traffic congestion are severe problems in megacities like Bangkok and it is great to see people leading by example to do something about it,” company cofounder Manuel Bender said.
Our guest of honour, H E Minister of Environment Varawut Silpa-archa even took our e-scooter for a spin. 👍 pic.twitter.com/WZ95BMC8BG
— Georg Schmidt (@GermanAmbTHA) November 27, 2019
Riding in the Rattanakosin area is a lot smoother than on Sukhumvit Road, where Neuron had saturated a swath of territory between BTS Phrom Phong and Thong Lo. Instead of potholes, uneven roads and paths blocked by construction, riders there enjoy wider lanes and less-crowded sidewalks.
Scoota’s also a little more affordable – the scooters cost THB20 to unlock and THB2 per minute of ride time. Riders must be 18 but no license is required. Top speeds max out at 16kph or 25kph, as set by the rider. There are currently no laws regulating e-scooters in Bangkok, but riders are encouraged to use the street and not take them on footpaths.
Scoota’s rides are picked up from and left at partnering cafes, restaurants and hostels. The app indicates how many are at each. Among them are Cafe’ Velodome at Thammasat University, Kor Ra Kang Cafe near the Golden Mountain and Pat Cafe Boraan on Phra Sumen Road.
It’s a win-win situation for both: Scoota gets the space, the venues get more traffic and customer convenience.
“Sometimes, customers had to wait around to be seated when the space is fully occupied, I tell them to ride scooters to kill some time. They enjoyed it,” said Pookun Trichomwaree, owner of Chingcha Bangkok Hostel, a stylish place with a rooftop bar view of the Giant Swing.
As commuting in Bangkok isn’t risk-free given the rogue buses and motorbikes, it’s some relief to know the scooters come with a helmet and bell. A headlight is also available for night rides.
Zipping along Phra Sumen Road, a troupe of Scoota riders exchanged thumbs-ups with tourists and locals.
“Some cops even gave us a thumbs-up and said ‘Cool scooters! How much?’” said Fabian Goebel, Scoota’s head of business development.
In the future, the startup plans to host e-scooter tours around town.