Updated: Nov 5, 2020
I was stuck downtown last week and had a couple hours to kill, so I figured I'd try out one of those Louvelo bikes that I see all around town. What was going to be a more formal review of Louvelo bike share stations ended up being a review-style vlog where I document my journey through downtown Louisville into Waterfront Park and back, and compare the Louvelo bikes to the Bird scooters.
First, some disclaimers. Both services "require" you to wear a helmet in the ToS. I did not wear a helmet. Also, it is against the law to ride the bikes and scooters on the sidewalk. I did use the scooter to ride on the sidewalk during part of my trip where I felt it would have been unsafe to ride along the road. With that being said, I'll get onto the review.
I'll start with the tl;dr - The Louvelo bikes are better for covering long distances and riding around the parks and bike paths for fun, and was also a better value and quality ride overall. The Bird scooters are much better for shorter commutes and navigating downtown, but have lower visibility and it felt more likely to crash.
Unlocking the bike was fairly simple. It involved using the Transit app to locate the nearest dock and register an account, enter payment information, and receive the 5 digit code you enter into the keypad on the docking station. After you enter the code the light turns green and beeps so you know that you can now pull the bike free from the docking station. When done, just push the bike into any Louvelo dock (make sure it beeps and the green light turns on).
The quality of the bike was average. For a lot of my trip the gear shifter was not operating properly, but eventually corrected itself. The bike came with all the standard gear - decent seat, reflectors, and a bike lock. Plastic casing protected the brake cables from vandalism.
The bike ride itself was mostly enjoyable. Navigating through the traffic of downtown was particularly stressful, but I consider that to be the nature of city biking in general and not a fault of Louvelo specifically. Once I got to Waterfront Park the ride was smooth and great.
I ended up paying about $7 for an hour long ride. I feel like this is a fair price for the base "pay-as-you-go" plan, and is competitive with other bike rentals in the area. However you are liable for damage and theft of the bike during your rental and could be charged up to $1200 for repairs or replacement fees, as stated on the handlebar of every bike.
Overall, I think Louvelo is a great local service. While there are a numerous docking stations in the downtown Louisville area, I would love to see more stations in the surrounding areas like the Highlands, Germantown, and Crescent Hill as well as Jeffersonville and Clarksville across the bridge.
Unlocking the scooter was extremely easy. It seems like there are at least 20 in my field of vision at all times when I'm anywhere near downtown. Scan the QR code on the scooter and you're ready to go. When you're done you can park it anywhere (please be mindful where you park these things, and leave enough room near entrances, ramps, and parking spaces so they are not in the way).
The quality of the scooter was low. These things are super cheap, and the battery gets drained fairly quickly. Brake cables and batteries are exposed and vulnerable to vandalism. However, the scooters do come with a handy bell mounted on the handlebar which is useful for navigating around pedestrians.
The ride on the scooter was thrilling and sometimes frightening. So while you can go pretty quick and zip your way around obstacles, the lack of any kind of shock absorption makes you feel like a bump at the wrong angle could send you flying over the handlebars. There are areas you are restricted from riding around (Waterfront Park, Skatepark, etc), but I had a much easier time navigating through downtown and 4th Street Live.
I ended up paying almost $7 for a 20 minute ride. Prices have been raised in the last couple months. I don't think this is a very good value, but the convenience of being able to hop on a scooter and park it wherever whenever you're done with it makes it the more practical choice a lot of the time. There's also no thousand-dollar repair and replacement fees hanging over your head.
Overall, I think Bird scooters are convenient and practical, but could use some improvement regarding the value, maintenance, upkeep, and business practices in general. I think the service could be most greatly improved if Bird had actual dedicated employees rather than relying on "freelancers" to perform upkeep services on the scooters, which I am sure contributes to the hectic and chaotic nature of the electric scooter craze.
Basically, If you have a lot of distance to cover, are planning a regular commute, or just want to ride around town for fun, go for the Louvelo bikes for sure. They are a great value and you will have a nice ride. If you need to be at a particular location downtown or have a bus to catch and are in a hurry, go for the Bird scooter. They're super quick and easy, and will get you where you need to go as long as you are careful not to hit the curb and fling yourself over the handlebars.
Or, you could always just walk like some kind of plebian.
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