By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Anyone walking around the streets of the ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ can’t help but notice the mysterious presence of ‘patinete elétrico’ (electric scooters) intermittently dispersed outside hotels, shops and street corners. Rentable electric scooters are the new craze to hit Rio, and so here is a guide to the different types available, and how to use them.
The scooters can be found all around the city, as well as at certain partner stores and outlets. They can be unlocked using the Grin app, which then allows for an initial free ride of ten minutes. The scooter can then be accessed for a fee of R$3, which covers the first three minutes ride, followed by 50 centavos for each additional minute.
These scooters can reach a speed of up to 20kph (around 12.5 mph) but riders must keep to below 6kph (3.75mph) when riding on pavements or other pedestrian areas, according to Brazilian law.
“I’ve seen lots of people have accidents with them. But I can imagine it’s super fun if you don’t break anything!” comments Belgian traveler Dounya Vandamme.
“Lots of people just go way too fast and too confident and then there is a little hole on the badly-maintained road and they fall super dramatically.” She concludes.
Although accidents so far have not discouraged people from picking up one of these new scooters, their potential dangers should be taken into account.
Marcos Leonhardt of the Institute of Orthopedics at the Hospital das Clínicas in São Paulo spoke to O Globo about this issue. He says, “A trauma at 20kph, with a sudden deceleration, is equivalent to a drop of three meters.”
He also warns how the scooters’ fun appearance may lead people to take more risks or forget about safety, “You ride these scooters in a more relaxed way, where you don’t take them as seriously as a motorcycle. It looks like a toy, something fun, and lowers your guard.”
Yellow are one of the main competitors to Grin, and they also have a semi-dockless approach which means that riders can pick up and drop off scooters all over the city. After downloading the app, the initial unlocking fee is R$2,25 with an additional 75 centavos after each minute of use.
Finally, there is Tembici, who offer a scooter service in partnership with Petrobras. They have a fleet of docked scooters across the city, where riders must take out and return their electric scooter from a designated station. Tembici have stations in Copacabana, Lagoa, and Leblon, among other places.
The cost is R$4 for every 15 minutes and the docking stations are open from 8AM until 8PM. The Tembici scooters’ speed are also limited to 15kph (9 mph) in order to ensure the safety of the rider and pedestrians.
Unlike the Scoo scooter company in São Paulo, which offers helmets, none of these scooters come with protective headgear. And though it is not illegal to ride an electric scooter without a helmet, ‘O Departamento Nacional de Trânsito’ (The National Department of Transport -Denatran) strongly advise against it.
Deise Dulce Barreto de Lemos, professor of Portuguese at Caminhos Language Centre, offers her opinion on the current craze, “I think the electric scooter could be a good option for transport in a city, but it’s very expensive.”
She continues, “It’s not really an alternative to the bus, or the metro, and in my opinion it’s not really worth it, because of this. A lot of people use them, for sure, but I think people here use them more for fun.”