I went to Uptown Mall last Saturday (April 6) morning to try out Grabwheels, E-scooters offered by Grab. They give 2 hours of free ride to any one who dares to try it!
It was quite easy to get hold of a Grabwheel. I downloaded the mobile app at one of the four kiosks of Grabwheels located around Uptown Mall and Uptown Parade, left my driver's license with the Grab employee, scanned the QR code on the E-scooter that I intended to ride, and off I went! It was a breeze compared to the experience I had with the shared E-bike that I tried at Stopover Pavillion two years ago.
Riders have to wear a helmet, and they let me wear my own helmet, which was great. Only persons over 18 years old are allowed to borrow the E-scooters.
DOs and DON'Ts
I was told that I could ride anywhere within BGC, but only on sidewalks. There is a long list of do's and don'ts, but in my view, these are the top items.
I am an experienced kick scooter user, so it was very easy for me to ride the Grabwheels. But the control is so simple that I think anyone can ride it any way, once one get comfortable with the start and stop techniques.
The Grabwheels have a top speed of 17 km per hour, which is quite fast for sidewalk traffic, since pedestrians do not expect and cannot hear you coming.
However, it was not easy to confine my ride to the sidewalks, since many sidewalks do not have smooth ramps. There are "ramps" that have a 2-inch curb that a E-scooter cannot ride up. Many sidewalks do not have ramps at all. In addition, some sideways are narrowed by planter boxes or space reserved for planter boxes, and boarded up construction sites.
When there is no ramp, lifting the E-scooter up is not easy. It weighs much more than a regular kick scooter.
I was going to ride the Grabwheels in Bonifacio High Street, but after I crossed 32nd Street at the junction with 11th Avenue, I was stopped by a BGC marshall who told me that Grabwheels were not allowed outside Uptown area. I asked what about other E-scooters, and they said other E-scooters were allowed.
If Grab wants to offer Grabwheel as a paid service, they will need to sort this out with BGC authorities.
[Update: on April 9, I saw two ladies riding Grabwheels in Burgos Circle. They said they crossed 32nd Street from S&R supermarket. Either BGC authorities have changed their policy, or they do not man all entrances to Central BGC.]
What can it be good for?
I enjoyed riding the E-scooter recreationally, and it encouraged me to explore parts of Bonifacio North that I did not bother to go before.
I can imagine people who live within 3 to 6 km of their work place using it to commute, and it could save them time and money (vs. taxi fare), and everyone the air pollution from the traffic otherwise generated. I have seen people riding it daily between McKinly Hill and BGC.
It can probably be used by people to connect between transport hubs, such as going from BGC to Ayala transport terminal during rush hours when buses and taxis are stuck in the peak hour traffic. It has to be allowed to ride on roads as sideways are too narrow and disjoined.
Some training for riders would probably be necessary, as I have seen some dangerous moments when E-scooters get too close to pedestrians, cars or motercycles.