As anyone who has been in or around Downtown Austin in the past week can attest, dockless mobility was kind of a thing at SXSW this year. While dockless, electric bicycles were in the mix, it’s the scooters, of course, that draw the most ranting and raving.
Sure, Austinites have had plenty of time to weigh in on the scooterization of local transportation, since we’ve had the things around—mostly in Downtown, South Austin, and Central East neighborhoods—for almost a year. And we all know how dicey navigating those areas gets during every SXSW, something to be expected when you invite 400,000 people to visit the already crowded streets of your central city for 10 days.
Some conventioneers and festival attendees, however, had strong reactions on both ends of the spectrum. And while it wasn’t exactly the Death Race 2000 situation The Verge’s Nick Statt described in his take on the “scooter invasion,” the influx and concentration of the vehicles (along with hordes of people willing to ride them) made the public parts of SXSW a little more intense this year.
On the ground look at the scooterpocalypse here in Austin. pic.twitter.com/BoCHikvC8Z— Nick Statt (@nickstatt) March 9, 2019
The clear winners in the SXSW scooter derbies, at least from early indicators, are the companies that deploy them. According to a report by mobile-data cruncher Apptopia, the top national dockless-mobility apps—which also happen to be the ones with the most vehicles in Austin at the moment—got significant bumps in downloads last week, especially during the beginning of the conference and festivals.
According to Apptopia’s report (which its website notes could have up to a 20 percent error rate but is more about the trend than hard numbers—as well as measuring a phenomenon that was at least anecdotally visible to those on the ground), Lime saw the biggest leap in downloads for the period. Bird had the second-highest increase, although one more than 10 percent lower than Lime’s. All four companies in the report showed sharp increases and peaks in downloads during the first three days of SXSW, which started on March 8 this year.