Electric scooters add a buzz to city sightseeing
While cable cars remain San Francisco’s transportation icon, scooters have proven popular with residents and visitors.
Paris has embraced the electric scooter, giving visitors and residents a breezy alternative to the Metro.
Austin, Texas, has scooter fever with more than a half-dozen providers licensed to operate.
Austin even has designated scooter parking zones.
Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city, has warily embraced the e-scooter, banning them from sidewalks in the Uptown area and limiting vehicle speeds to 15 mph.
Portland, Oregon, has taken a cautious approach to scooters, authorizing a four-month pilot last year. But they were so well-accepted, the city has plans to welcome the vehicles again this year.
Scooters have taken off in traffic-choked and tech-focused Tel Aviv, Israel, where the vehicles are often used for outings to the city’s Mediterranean beaches.
Denver offers plenty of scooter choices, providing another option for visitors to make their way to the booming city’s food halls, museums and parks.
Already home to a popular bike-share program, Washington, D.C., has gone all-in for scooters.
Beachfront Santa Monica, California, was one of the first cities to regulate scooters and dockless bikes.
A special slow zone caps scooter speeds on Santa Monica’s busy boardwalk, and the city also has painted-off corrals to park the vehicles and keep them from cluttering up the waterfront.
The latest way to sightsee requires an app, a sense of balance and a thumb to operate a throttle. Dockless electric scooters are a great way to explore a city, says Paul DeMaio, who manages the bike- and scooter-share programs in Arlington, Virginia. “It can be a lot of fun.” In some areas the programs, which offer short-term rentals for just a few dollars, have been controversial: Parked scooters can block sidewalks, and inexperienced, unhelmeted riders have been injured. But cities have adopted regulations, and the popularity is booming. “It’s surprising how quickly they have caught on and spread,” says DeMaio. He shares some scenic places to scoot with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Santa Monica, California
This beachfront city was one of the first to regulate scooters and dockless bikes. A special slow zone caps scooter speeds on the busy boardwalk, and the city also has painted-off corrals to park the vehicles and keep them from cluttering up the waterfront. “It’s one of the very first scootershares in the country,” DeMaio says. santamonica.com
One of the world’s top tourism cities has embraced the electric scooter, giving visitors and residents a breezy alternative to the Metro. But the vehicles are only allowed on streets and bike paths. The trottinettes, as they’re called in French, aren’t left out to litter the sidewalks, either. As in most places, the entire fleet is picked up every evening and redistributed around the city by the next morning. en.parisinfo.com
Already home to a successful bike-share program, the nation’s capital has gone all-in for scooters. “D.C. was pretty welcoming early on,” DeMaio says. But visitors do need to know the regulations: The vehicles aren’t allowed on sidewalks in the central business district, which includes the National Mall and the White House area, and speeds are capped. washington.org
The Mile High City offers plenty of scooter choices, providing another option for visitors to make their way to the booming city’s food halls, museums and parks. New regulations ban the vehicles from most sidewalks and the city’s 16th Street pedestrian mall. The growing usage may be coming at the expense of the city’s bike-share program, which has seen a drop in riders. denver.org
While cable cars remain the city’s transportation icon, scooters have caught on with both residents and visitors. Still, the city has played hardball with the scooter industry, only allowing two companies to operate in the municipality, although that’s under appeal. “They were looking for the best actors out there in terms of those willing to work with the city,” DeMaio says. sanfrancisco.travel
Best U.S. cities for car-free travelers
TransitScreen assesses transportation options from any point in up to 100 U.S. cities. Just enter an address and it provides a ranked score based on how easy it is to get a bus, train, taxi, bikeshare, Uber and other transportation from that location. USA TODAY asked TransitScreen to crunch their data to come up with the best cities for travelers who have no interest in driving. No. 20: Houston. Average MobilityScore: 51.
No. 19: Austin. Average MobilityScore: 51.
No. 18: Miami. Average MobilityScore: 51.
No. 17: Portland, Ore. Average MobilityScore: 53.
No. 16; Minneapolis. Average MobilityScore: 55.
No. 15: Dallas. Average MobilityScore: 55.
No. 14: Atlanta. Average MobilityScore: 55.
No. 13: Milwaukee. Average MobilityScore: 56.
No. 12: Detroit. Average MobilityScore: 56.
No. 11: Charlotte, N.C. Average MobilityScore: 57.
No. 10: Baltimore. Average MobilityScore: 57.
No. 9: Denver. Average MobilityScore: 58.
No. 8: Seattle. Average MobilityScore: 64.
No. 7: Chicago. Average MobilityScore: 64.
No. 6: Los Angeles. Average MobilityScore: 65.
No. 5: Philadelphia. Average MobilityScore: 70.
No. 4: San Francisco. Average MobilityScore: 80.
No. 3: Washington, D.C. Average MobilityScore: 80.
No. 2: Boston. Average MobilityScore: 81.
No. 1: New York City. Average MobilityScore: 95.
This historic college town has quickly adapted to scooters, which first arrived in the fall. They provide an easy way to zip around commercial areas, and on streets through the scenic University of Virginia grounds. Regulations require the vehicles to stay off sidewalks, and limit usage in pedestrian-heavy areas like the Downtown Mall and the college’s Lawn area. visitcharlottesville.org
Tel Aviv, Israel
Scooters have taken off in Israel’s largest city, traffic-choked and tech-focused Tel Aviv. Riders are required to wear a helmet and restricted to bike trails, although they’re permitted on streets where no paths are available. Popular with weekday commuters, the vehicles are also often used for outings to the city’s Mediterranean beaches. Rentals climb on the Jewish Sabbath, when the city’s public transportation doesn’t operate. goisrael.com
The Lone Star State capital has scooter fever with thousands on the streets, and more than a half-dozen providers licensed to operate. The city even has designated scooter parking zones. “It’s one of the largest (programs) in the country,” DeMaio says. One company, Ojo, plans to offer Vespa-style sit-down scooters with Bluetooth-enabled speakers. austintexas.gov/docklessmobility
Charlotte, North Carolina
North Carolina’s largest city has embraced the e-scooter, but bans them from sidewalks in the Uptown area and limits vehicle speeds. Rental companies require riders to be over 18, and to have a driver’s license. charlottesgotalot.com
When reports began pouring in from other cities about sidewalks being overrun with scooters, Portland took a cautious approach, authorizing a four-month pilot last year. But scooters were so well-accepted, the city has plans to welcome the vehicles again this year. “Cities are trying to protect the public and limit the negative impacts as much as possible,” DeMaio says. travelportland.com
The 10 cities with the best public transportation
Moscow: From mosaics and stained glass to bronze chandeliers and metal sculptures, Moscow’s Metro stations are full of art — and many are so beautiful that there are tours dedicated to exploring them. Fortunately, they’re also part of an affordable transit network that is currently undergoing a major expansion.
Hong Kong: Pretty much every list of cities with the best public transportation includes Hong Kong, and for good reason. Clean, comprehensive and efficient, Hong Kong’s public transit network includes buses, trams, subways and overland trains. Visitors can purchase a reloadable Octopus card that can be used not only on most forms of public transportation but also for shopping and dining around town.
Paris: The venerable subway system in Paris — with its distinctive art deco-style Metropolitain signs marking many of the stations — has been carrying visitors and locals across the city since 1900. Its color-coded lines are easy to navigate, and the organization that operates the Metro, RATP, offers an app that works offline to help visitors find their way around.
San Francisco: The city’s transit system, Muni, operates subway and bus lines as well as San Francisco’s famous cable cars and street cars — which might not always be the fastest way to get around town, but are certainly the most fun. You can buy Muni tickets in various ways, including by using its mobile app. Muni connects to regional train services such as Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Caltrain, which can take you to other key spots in the region like Oakland, San Jose, Palo Alto and San Francisco International Airport.
Tokyo: Tokyo’s subway map looks impossibly complex at first glance, especially because the trains are operated by multiple companies. Fortunately, the system is easier to use than it appears: When you buy a reloadable card (such as Suica or Pasmo), you can use it on any train or bus, regardless of which company operates it. English-language signs are plentiful throughout Tokyo’s major stations, and the system is so extensive that you can get just about anywhere in this sprawling metropolis. Tokyo’s trains and buses operate frequently and are scrupulously clean.
Sydney: Encompassing trains, buses, light rail and ferries, Sydney’s public transportation system offers a reliable and cost-effective way to get around the city. It’s gotten easier and cheaper to ride thanks to the Opal card, a reloadable smartcard that offers discounted fares and can be used on all modes of transit.
Zurich: As you’d expect in a country with a reputation for cleanliness and efficiency, Zurich’s public transportation network — which includes trains, buses and trams — is top-notch. Within the city, you’re rarely more than 300 meters from the nearest bus or tram stop. And the cost is quite affordable by Swiss standards. A Zurich Card entitles visitors to unlimited travel on all public transportation in the region, as well as free or reduced admission to dozens of area museums, for either 24 or 72 hours. Day passes solely for public transit are also available.
Singapore: Cheap, clean trains whisk travelers from one top attraction to another, including Chinatown, Gardens by the Bay and the upmarket shops of Orchard Road. Where Singapore’s trains don’t go, the buses do — and an EZ-Link card gets you access to both networks.
Montreal: Between its color-coded subway lines and wide-ranging bus network, Montreal’s public transportation will get you just about anywhere you need to go — without being over-complicated. Its website has a handy list of major landmarks for visitors, such as Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal), Saint-Joseph Oratory and Jean-Talon Market, along with the nearest subway station and bus stop to each one. Fare options are flexible: You can purchase tickets by the ride, buy a 10-trip package, or snag an unlimited pass for anywhere from one day to four months.
Sao Paulo: Sao Paulo’s traffic is notoriously terrible, and its attractions are scattered across the city, so many visitors opt to get around via the comfortable and convenient subway system (called the Metro). The system’s five color-coded Metro lines serve the city’s key tourist attractions, including the Museum of Art (Metro stop: Trianon-MASP), the Sao Paulo Cathedral (Metro stop: Se) and the Monastery of Sao Bento (Metro stop: Sao Bento). Most major stations have transportation offices with staff who can answer questions or help you buy a ticket.