Skip to main content

The secret weapon of San Diego Comic-Con: scooters

The secret weapon of San Diego Comic-Con: scooters

/

The last mile turns into the last fifty feet

Share this story

Photo by Andrew Liptak / The Verge

When I flew out to San Diego Comic-Con last week, I noticed one big change to the scene from last year. It wasn’t that Marvel and HBO weren’t there, and there were still thousands of fans dressed up in their favorite T-shirts or costumes. But as I rode in from the airport, I noticed that there were hundreds of electric scooters and bikes strewn around the sidewalks from companies such as Lime, Bird, Ofo, and MoBike. It was a drastic change from 2017’s convention, where I didn’t see any, and it highlights a point where these mobility solutions are useful — most of the time.

On-demand electric scooters have become the next big thing when it comes to personal mobility, and in the last year, major cities like San Francisco and Miami have had to contend with them piling up on sidewalks. The vehicles are simple to use: you download the app from the company that owns the bike or scooter, put in your payment information, scan the QR code, and off you go, zipping along at a pace that’s comparable to a run. They’ve been popular, too. Lime said earlier this week that it provided 6 million rides in its first year of operation, while companies such as Uber and Lyft are looking into offering their own versions to complement their fleets.

The convention famously attracts well over a hundred thousand people to the San Diego Convention Center in the city’s Marina district, and takes over the surrounding blocks for the better part of a week, encompassing around a mile of space, end-to-end. At the height of the con, the roads are flooded with people, and the streets that aren’t closed off are crowded with cars. Moving around and getting to the convention center can be a problem: you’ll either spend time hunting for a distant parking space or stuck in traffic trying, or you’ll end up walking several blocks to get to the center — which isn’t fun in the middle of July.

This makes the scooters and bikes an ideal in-between solution. They’re small enough to go between cars on the road (while they’re banned from sidewalks in San Diego, I saw more than one rider doing just that), and when I tried out Lime and Bird scooters out a couple of times during the convention, they certainly helped me get from my hotel room several blocks north of the convention center to where I needed to go, saving me critical minutes while heading to an interview or panel. On the one or two instances where I had a clear road without traffic, they were even a bit fun, zipping down blocks in seconds that would have taken me minutes to traverse.

I wasn’t alone in this, either: Lime told The Verge that on Saturday, July 21st (the con’s busiest day), the company saw double its “normal daily average,” and over the course of the weekend, more than “10,000 unique riders” used its vehicles. Zack Bartlett, Lime’s San Diego general manager said that they worked with the convention center and city to deploy the vehicles in the area. Indeed, I saw many attendees going from place to place on the company’s green scooters, as well as on those of its competitors.

While useful, scooters aren’t necessarily something that solves all of the problems when it comes to getting around a convention center. For one, there’s a lot of people packed into a small space, and the convention had enough foresight to prohibit scooters in a small perimeter around the convention center itself. For another, there have been numerous reports of crashes and injuries of people on scooters, prompting calls for bans on the vehicles.

Bringing in motorized vehicles where there are huge numbers of people causes problems. The ones mounting around scooters and similar devices aren’t unique to the convention in San Diego, but I noticed more than a few. I saw only one rider wearing a helmet; more than once, I had someone almost walk in front of me while riding a scooter, and more than once, I was almost hit by someone not paying attention on their own ride.

While most cars gave me a wide berth on the road, it was still a white-knuckling experience: you’re acutely aware that you’re largely unprotected while riding between cars. There are other minor issues as well to be expected with a large fleet of vehicles. One scooter I got had some sort of issue with its throttle, prompting me to replace it with another, and at peak hours, it was sometimes hard to find a ride when you needed it — they were either being used, or mistakenly showed up on the app’s map.

But at the end of the day, the scooters and bikes were a useful tool for getting around what is typically one of the more annoying parts of a major convention: moving across the space that the convention spans and lodging. They can move people quickly from point to point in places where pedestrians don’t typically go, saving con-goers a lot of time and sweat.

Photography by Andrew Liptak / The Verge

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Two hours ago Dimorphos didn’t even see it coming

R
Twitter
Richard LawlerTwo hours ago
A direct strike at 14,000 mph.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) scored a hit on the asteroid Dimorphos, but as Mary Beth Griggs explains, the real science work is just beginning.

Now planetary scientists will wait to see how the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit, and to download pictures from DART’s LICIACube satellite which had a front-row seat to the crash.


M
The Verge
We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


Asian America learns how to hit back

The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

Esther WangSep 26
E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


R
Youtube
Richard LawlerSep 26
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 26
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


A
External Link
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.


J
James VincentSep 26
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.


Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
J
The Verge
James VincentSep 26
Deepfakes were made for Disney.

You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.


E
External Link
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.


R
The Verge
Richard LawlerSep 26
Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.