LUUP, you got to be kidding me.
I noticed that there are ports with LUUP electric kickboards all over Tokyo. I was so surprised when I saw the map with the locations of the ports.
Who would want to ride such an electric kickboard?
I am a fan of electric bikes myself. In fact, I use a shared bike service operated by the “Hello Cycling” brand. This is because there is a port near my house and it is convenient, at least for my family.
Even in Tokyo, the land within the Yamanote Line has some ups and downs. There are many places where you cannot get around easily without an electric bicycle, which I think is very difficult for people who live in the city center.
Electric bikes are very comfortable. Nowadays, it is a matter of course for my family to ride bikes in the city center, unless it is on the other side of the Yamanote Line…that is, unless it is 30 minutes by train from the nearest station.
But there is a problem. The problem is that shared bikes are very territorial. Hello Cycling, our family’s favorite bike service, has very few stations in the downtown area. This is especially true in the Chiyoda, Minato, Chuo, and Shinjuku wards. Instead, they are the domain of Docomo Bikeshare, a company that offers bright red bicycles.
Bikeshare is a service where you are charged according to the time you use the bike. So I want to rent a bike and return it quickly. Even if I want to go out to eat at a restaurant, I want to return the bike at least once. It would be silly and inconvenient to spend an hour relaxing in a cafe only to find out that the bike cost several hundred yen.
So I am very concerned about the situation where Hello Cycling and docomo Bikeshare have separate territories. As a user, I would like to see them ride together, but since Hello Cycling is a SoftBank affiliate, I don’t think it’s possible. It makes no sense for Docomo and Softbank to get along.
I was surprised to see that LUUP is expanding its power without considering the previous distribution of power. If that is the case, they cover all of Tokyo! I thought. It’s an electric kickboard, so it’s expensive, but depending on where you go, it might be an option for you.
That’s why I joined LUUP.
There is no monthly fee, so you only pay for what you use. So it is not scary to become a member.
But the price is still scary. It costs 15 yen per minute. In other words, if you rent a car for one hour, you pay 900 yen. It was a scary fact that the price was the same as renting a car from a car-sharing company. Amazing. This is a high-class vehicle.
When you become a member, you have to answer 10 questions about traffic laws 100% correctly, and if you answer even one question incorrectly, you have to take the test again.
I was skeptical about electric scooters because I was satisfied with my electric-assisted bicycle, but one day I had some business in the city center and decided to give it a try. The advantage of this type of vehicle over public transportation is that you can get right in front of your destination. It is much easier to get on a train or bus and not have to wade through the crowds at the station.
I looked around some of the ports in my area. I was impressed that the use of the system is spreading so quickly.
The photo shows a spacious area in front of a grocery store, but in reality the area is much smaller and full of tight spaces. In fact, there are many narrow spaces, such as a corner of an apartment building’s bicycle parking lot, that have been turned into ports. Unlike bicycles, kickboards don’t have pedals, so you can squeeze a kickboard into a very small space. In other words, it was more efficient.
Because of the sheer number of ports and the high price, it is easy to find an empty electric kickboard in the neighborhood if you are looking for one. In the case of Hello Cycling, I am often at a loss to find an available bike, but LUUP does not seem to be that crowded yet.
The way you ride is unique.
You kick the first step with your foot and when the kickboard moves forward, you press the gas pedal lever and the motor starts moving. At first I didn’t know how to use it and was confused when I clicked the throttle in the bike parking lot and asked, “Is it broken?” I was confused.
The throttle lever must be held down at all times. When your hand leaves the lever, the engine stops and slows down. It also has a brake, turn signal and horn.
It takes only a few minutes to learn how to drive. The low center of gravity makes it very easy to balance.
The diameter of the wheels is as small as a child’s tricycle, so it is difficult to go over bumps. Since it is not electrically assisted, but electrically powered, if you try to force it over a bump, you will lose your balance and fall over. Also, the wheelbase is long for the diameter of the wheels, so it does not turn well at all. This is not a problem for driving on the road, but it is a bit of a hassle when maneuvering the car in and out of the harbor.
Once you understand the peculiarities of the body, can you drive around town with ease? It is not like that.
Even though it is a light vehicle with a license plate, it is still an electric kickboard, and since it will be possible to drive it without a license from the summer of 2023, there is no way you can drive it fast. In fact, the speed is slower than that of electric bicycles, which seem to have a limiter set at around 15 kilometers per hour.
In this case, Ishi, who is traveling with me on a bicycle, is faster than me. This is not only because bicycles are faster in a straight line, but also because bicycles are more maneuverable at intersections.
Since LUUPs are classified as “small special motor vehicles”, they have a unique right turn procedure. Scooters are known for their “two-step right turns”, but LUUPs are not allowed to make two-step right turns. If you want to make a right turn at an intersection on a street with two or more lanes in one direction, you must cross the street with pedestrians in the crosswalk.
In other words, if you want to make a right turn, you have to cross the sidewalk a total of two times, which is a huge loss of time compared to a bicycle. Therefore, it is necessary to consider a “counterclockwise as much as possible (i.e., make many left turns)” route to your destination. If you accidentally choose the clockwise route, you will not be able to move forward at a really frustrating level.
In addition, there are many one-way streets in the heart of the city, and there are many places where you can’t enter. Even though I am riding a kickboard, I feel the same as a cyclist. So there were many times when I accidentally entered a one-way street and had to brake in a hurry at the entrance to the street.
It is also annoying that the batteries run out very quickly. It would be nice if we could rent one with a 100% charge, but if not, we would have to change it at some port along the way. If you have an electric bike, you can keep going even if the battery runs out. But if you have an electric kickboard and it runs out of battery, you have to push it by yourself. In fact, the kickboard I used ran out of battery halfway through the ride.
In the end, I asked Ishi, who rides a bicycle, to go ahead of me to the destination, and I pushed the LUUP to the next port that had a dead battery, and then switched to another one to get there. I arrived 15 minutes after her.
So I thought the LUUP was great in that there were ports all over the place. But I didn’t want to use it actively. It’s slow, the battery dies, and it’s very restrictive on the road. And the price is high.
I think I’ll continue to use LUUP only when I want to travel by shared bike but couldn’t arrange a bike. Anyway, it’s good to have more transportation options.