A company that collects and inspects e-scooters overnight might be the answer to the safety issues that have followed them since they first hit the streets in fall 2017.
Santa Monica is the birthplace of both e-scooters and Sweep, a company that evolved from a group of friends charging scooters on the pier into a logistics machine that operates in cities across the United States and is planning a global expansion. The company dispatches teams at night to pick up scooters and trained mechanics run each one through a safety check, making repairs as needed.
CEO Richard Branning said delivering a level of accountability beyond what scooter companies provide benefits both riders and the vendors themselves. The team prevents malfunctions that could harm riders and ensures that the devices don’t go missing.
Any individual can charge or fix scooters. For example, Bird Mechanics only have to watch some instructional videos before receiving tools from the company. Branning said Sweep is a safer alternative to independent contractors.
“If you’re going to hop on a scooter, are you going to hop on one that’s been outsourced to the public where anyone can become a mechanic, or are you going to ride on one that’s been put through a quality control checklist by our warehouse mechanics?” he said.
Branning, who graduated from Pepperdine University in 2012, was working at a startup near the Third Street Promenade when the first Bird scooters arrived in Santa Monica. He was one of the first riders, but he was skeptical that the companies could deliver a safe product using independent chargers or mechanics.
“When you have a product transporting thousands of people around, there needs to be responsibility and accountability with that service,” he said.
Sweep provides services to cities struggling with the growing pains of the scooter industry as well, Branning said, including its 311 Scooter Relocation Service that police officers and local officials can use.
“When someone sees a scooter in the middle of the street, the process is really fragmented. The person calls the city, the city calls the company and the company calls the contractor,” he said. “We drive Sweep vans around the city that can respond to scooters in inappropriate places.”
The young company is expanding to 75 cities this year and debuting new services, Branning said.
“We want to deliver scooters from our vans on demand,” he said. “People can order a scooter rather than an Uber.”