The effort to bring e-scooters to the streets of New York got a jolt Tuesday — from star sprinter Usain Bolt.
The nine-time Olympic gold medalist widely considered to be the greatest sprinter in the world — lent his backing to the company, also dubbed Bolt, at a press conference outside City Hall.
“The first thing people always say to me when I get somewhere late … is that, ‘Why didn’t you run?’” Bolt joked. “Now I actually have the Bolt scooter to get there quickly.”
Bolt is one company in a crowded marketplace of dockless electric scooters hoping that New York will legalize the use of the technology. Others include Bird and Lime, who have rolled out their products in cities across the country. Bolt said it has hundreds of scooters operating in Fort Lauderdale.
The company sought to set itself apart not just with its celebrity spokesman, but by saying it was built specifically for the mean streets of New York City.
A model on display at City Hall — dubbed a “Bolt Chariot” — was considerably bulkier than Bird or Lime scooters. It includes an area in the front that can be used to store a purse or backpack, enough room for both feet to face forward, two cupholders for the thirstiest of commuters and 10-inch wheels, larger than the competition, to deal with potholes.
“As you know, the streets of New York are pretty tough, so we’ve had to design our scooters to be tough as well,” Bolt head of operations Will Nicholas, a former Tesla executive, said.
Asked if they’d commit money to helping build transportation infrastructure like bike lanes, the Bolt execs declined to offer a dollar figure. But Bolt co-CEO Sarah Haynes the company would offer discounted rides to veterans and people living in low-income areas or transit deserts.[More Politics] Michael Avenatti abruptly announces he has cut ties with Stormy Daniels after judge dismisses her Trump lawsuit »
Nicholas would not say how much the company was paying Bolt, but the runner noted he did have five scooters of his own at home.
“Growing up in Jamaica, being on time was everything to me — my dad was all about time. He always said, be two hours earlier, [rather] than one minute late,” Bolt said.
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The scooters cost a dollar to activate for a ride, plus 15 cents a minute. They can travel “well over 20 miles per charge,” Nicholas said.
In many cities, regulations have limited e-scooters to around 15 miles per hour. That’s slower than Bolt can run — he hit 27.8 m.p.h. in 2009, setting a world record.
“Sometimes you need to slow down,” Bolt said.