Since their debut in Provo just days ago, the orange electric Spin scooters can be seen zipping around town, ridden by gleeful scooter riders from point A to point B.
Spin scooters have been billed by city leadership as a means of getting the "last mile" from major transit hubs, like the FrontRunner station, to final destinations.
So, how effective are these little two-wheeled electric wonders at getting around town? Well, the Daily Herald staff took it upon ourselves to see how quickly we could get from the FrontRunner Station in Provo to various popular spots around Provo, like the library, the center of town, the city offices and even all the way to the corner of BYU.
Here is how long it takes to get from the Provo FrontRunner Station to 10 popular spots in Provo, as well as just how enjoyable those trips are.
Utah Valley Convention Center
One-way trip time: Six minutes
I started by driving from the convention center to the FrontRunner station, to compare how long it takes to drive versus scooter. It took me pretty much exactly five minutes via car.
I had downloaded the app the night before, so once I scanned the barcode on the scooter I wanted, I just had to enter my credit card number and I was on my way.
I left on the scooter and headed up Freedom Boulevard using the bike lane. The bike lane was tons of fun and allowed me to get up to the full 15 mph that the scooters are capable of. Unfortunately, the bike lane ends at 300 South, so I started using the sidewalk, which is technically not allowed. I slowed way down on the sidewalk and was averaging about five miles an hour to avoid posing a danger to pedestrians.
Without a bike lane, I just didn't feel safe on a scooter on the road, especially considering I was not wearing a helmet.
It took me six minutes to get from the FrontRunner station to the convention center — only one minute slower than using my car. There's also lots of space in front of the convention center to park your scooter in a responsible manner.
— By Katie England, Daily Herald
Provo City Offices
One-way trip time: Nine minutes
I started at the FrontRunner station and got to the city offices about nine minutes later via Freedom Blvd. However, that included a stop at the Utah Valley Convention Center to take a photo.
If you were heading straight to the city offices without any other stops, my guess is it would take about six to seven minutes, which is about how long it took me to scooter back directly from the city offices to Provo Central station.
I used bike lanes where available, so from 300 South on Freedom Boulevard to the station. In other places I used sidewalks, because using the road did not feel safe. Luckily, I was riding early in the morning, and there were very few pedestrians on the sidewalk at that time. If you're scootering on a Friday/Saturday night downtown, expect to add some time to your trip to slow down and avoid pedestrians/bikers/etc.
There were a lot of trash cans placed directly in the bike lane on my way back to the station, which meant I had to come to almost a complete stop to look for traffic before going around it. It definitely slowed me down, and it seemed like there was plenty of room on the curb outside the bike lane for people to place their trash.
— By Katie England, Daily Herald
4th District Courthouse
One-way trip time: Five minutes
*slaps scooter handlebars* This bad boy can zoom up to 15 mph but if you plan to ride over the railroad tracks you better go a little bit slower or you risk launching yourself into the asphalt.
I breezed through all the green lights going from the Provo FrontRunner Station to the 4th District Courthouse in less than five minutes on Freedom Boulevard.
The only problem during the ride were SIX garbage cans in the middle of the bike lane near the tracks. The bike lane also disappears when you ride toward downtown, so a huge thank you to all the cars that slide over to the far lane as they passed me.
I didn't have any problems with the scooter or the app. The ride was fast and fun and always remember to bring a helmet.
— By Ashley Stilson, Daily Herald
Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
One-way trip time: Six minutes
Hands down the best part about riding an electric scooter is how fast you get to go. The worst part is that you can't keep going fast because Provo is not as bike/scooter friendly as you think.
Riding along Freedom Boulevard is fabulous until the bike lane ends. Riding along Center Street is superb until a parked vehicle decides to reverse suddenly. Riding anywhere along University Avenue is a suicide mission so prepare for death unless you plan to go really slowly on the sidewalks.
It took me about six minutes to get from the Provo FrontRunner Station to the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. Granted, I did stop for kolaches before the ride so maybe my slightly heavier weight slowed down my zoom.
Suggested songs to listen to while cruising down the road include Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now," "What's Up Danger" by Blackway with Black Caviar or AC/DC "Highway To Hell."
— By Ashley Stilson, Daily Herald
One-way trip time: Six minutes, 45 seconds
I went into this knowing that Smith's was likely not one of the hottest destinations to scoot to. But as someone who works in downtown Provo and sometimes just wants to run to Smith's for a cheap lunch, it's a major inconvenience to go down the elevator, across the skybridge, to my car, down the garage and through a few stoplights to get to Smith's.
It's much easier to just go down the elevator to a scooter by my building to get my sad salad for lunch.
But per the rules, I couldn't depart from the Wells Fargo building. I started at the Provo FrontRunner Station and got a scooter unlocked in a minute or two. I took Freedom Boulevard directly from the FrontRunner station to the west corner of Smith's in 6 minutes, 45 seconds.
I felt pretty fearless of the speed and traffic because I'd been on these before in Washington, D.C. But as soon as that bike lane disappeared, I felt pretty crowded on the street with traffic, and that tepid fear creeped in as I gently eased off the acceleration and eased onto the sidewalk, guidelines be damned.
Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable experience, though I would hope that the roll-out of these scooters, as well as the forthcoming bikes, would encourage Provo to install more bike lanes. Heck, I'd take a decent shoulder.
— By Kurt Hanson, Daily Herald
To Provo City Library
One-way trip time: 20 minutes
This trip was my first time using a motorized scooter.
I arrived at the station and quickly found the bright orange Spin scooters lined up on the sidewalk. After scanning the code, I was ready to start, but quickly realized that riding a motorized scooter isn’t exactly like riding a bike. It’d been at least 15 years since I’d last been on a scooter, but after I realized that you have to push to get them going before the motor kicks in, I was off.
My first few minutes on the scooter were slow. I stayed at between 4 mph and 8 mph on my trip to the library, and slowed down to a stop to go over the bumpy railroad tracks. I started out in the bike lane on Freedom Boulevard for a few minutes until the bike lane ended and I didn’t feel safe enough to stay in traffic. Yes, I realized that by riding on the sidewalk and not wearing a helmet I was breaking two of the main scooter rules. But even without a helmet, I felt much safer on the sidewalk, except for when I had to pick up the scooter to go around nonexistent pieces of sidewalk.
It takes about five minutes by car to get from the Provo FrontRunner Station to the Provo City Library. By scooter, it took much, much longer. It took me 20 minutes and 20 seconds to reach the library. Part of that is because I was nowhere close to maxing out the speed on the scooter, and another part is because I mistakenly overshot my destination, turned on 700 North, and then went south on University Avenue before I reached the library.
My trip back was only 16 minutes. I took 500 North to Freedom Boulevard to get back to the FrontRunner station, and felt comfortable enough to up my speed to an average between 6 and 12 mph. I stuck entirely to the sidewalk on the way back, and felt mostly safe, except for when I was passing by Smith’s and was almost hit by cars not looking in both directions before they pulled out into traffic.
To south end of Brigham Young University
One-way trip time: 25 minutes
The scooters will not work at Brigham Young University, which is marked off by a massive red block on the Spin app’s map. As soon as I hit the sidewalk after passing from Brick Oven, a voice sounded on the scooter letting me know it was shutting down.
It took me about 25 minutes to reach the south end of campus from the Provo FrontRunner Station via scooter, a trip that would take about seven minutes by car. On the way back, I felt safer going faster speeds, and only took 21 minutes.
A student did approach me when I was on the edge of campus to ask more about how the scooters worked. Parking at BYU is always a bit of a nightmare, so I’d love to be able to park a scooter there rather than try to navigate visitor parking. From what I heard from the student, there’s a lot of student interest in using the scooters to avoid parking, as well.
Towne Center Mall
One-way trip time: Four minutes, 42 seconds
According to Google, going by bike from the Provo Frontrunner station to the Towne Centre Mall should only take about four minutes. On my spin scooter, it took 4:42, according to the stopwatch on my phone. That was without having to wait at any lights, remarkably, and because it was my first ride, I never went the top speed of 15 mph, mostly hovering around 10 mph.
Although there is a wide shoulder along University Avenue from the FrontRunner station to Towne Centre Mall, drivers are going way over the speed limit and I just didn't feel safe risking it, so I stuck to the sidewalk. Thankfully I didn't see any people on a Monday morning along the sidewalk. However, the sidewalk itself is in TERRIBLE shape. So many cracks and uneven patches. If it's possible to bottom out on those scooters, I'm pretty sure I did a dozen times. At the very least, there were some very disconcerting sounds like I had bottomed out that my scooter emitted.
I didn't notice any obvious places to park my scooter once at the mall entrance, although there was a bike rack and I'm confident placing my scooter next to it would have been acceptable. The ride back to the Frontrunner station was also uneventful; I just retraced my route and went over the same bumps and cracks.
Things that I did not expect: how much the scooter sounds like a robot from the movie Wall-E. There are so many sounds it makes that caught me off guard.
Provo City Center
One-way trip time: 16 minutes
Provo City Center, of course, is the heart of Provo and the place where everyone probably wants to visit. So naturally it seems like a place to go on a scooter from the Frontrunner.
First things first, I thought taking University Avenue would be the best route because it would be the straightest — I just wanted to get to where University Avenue met Center Street, after all. That was my first mistake.
The hill climbing up University Ave outside the train station is TERRIFYING. There's no way to cross the street immediately exiting the station; you have to drive a little ways to get to a stoplight and crosswalk. I opted instead to just stay on the exit side, going against the flow of traffic. There's no visible bike lane so I stayed on the sidewalk out of fear for my life. But the fear continued because that sidewalk is the narrowest sidewalk I have ever seen.
Of course, it was all downhill from there, in a good way. Mostly smooth riding — until I reached 100 South.
Let's talk about red zones. When you pull up the Spin app you need to check out a scooter, it shows a little map that has little red zones indicating where the scooters cannot go. They will not work in those red zones.
The entire Provo City Center LDS Temple and its grounds are inside a red zone. Which is fine and totally makes sense. However, to my surprise and dismay, the University Ave sidewalk on the same side as the temple apparently also counts as part of that red zone, a fact I discovered only as my scooter suddenly coasted to a stop while a robot voice told me to turn back. I had to turn back to 100 South, cross the street and scooter down the other side of University Avenue. Halfway between Center Street and 100 South, I got the cranky robot voice again telling me to turn back and had to manually scooter back to the corner of University Ave and Center Street. And those scooters are HEAVY.
The final frustrating cherry on top was a glitch with the app itself. I attempted to end my ride, parking my scooter on the corner of University Ave and Center Street (again, on the temple side, even though the surrounding sidewalks are apparently unrideable), when the app seemed to crash. Although I hit "end ride" and "confirm end ride," the app continued to count the minutes of my ride. I had to close the app and open it again to end my ride, when it finally worked and asked me to take a picture of my scooter. Of course by this time I had walked away and had to cross back to where I had parked. It added another two minutes to my ride which would be fine if I didn't have to pay per minute.
The whole ordeal took took around 16 minutes. Honestly, I'd rather walk.
— By Carley Porter, Daily Herald
To Pioneer Park
One-way trip time: 12 minutes
My experience riding the new Spin scooters to Pioneer Park was a mixed bag. Here are some of the thoughts that ran through my head on my round trip:
"Why is this app making me add money onto it when it says I have a free ride?"
"Oh wow, my coworkers told me these accelerated quickly, but that was still quicker than I expected."
"I really shouldn't have worn sandals for this."
"OK, I'm starting to get a hang of things now. This is pretty fun, even if I am still a little nervous."
"Why the heck did the bike lane just suddenly end? Should I pretend I'm a car in the street or pretend I'm a non-motorized scooter on the sidewalk?"
"Holy cow, Provo really needs to get its act together and fix some of these crazy sidewalk problems."
*while stopping at a shop for a popsicle* "This app really shouldn't continue charging people while they're pausing their ride ... that'll discourage people from riding these to actually go somewhere instead of just riding around for fun."
Overall, it was a fun experience, and I got less and less nervous the more I rode. It took me 12 minutes on the dot one-way, with a little detour for construction (also I was probably slower than the average rider). My 45-minute ride (I rode around a bit more before heading back) cost about $7. I'd do it again.
— By McKenna Park, Daily Herald