The world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, stood on the steps of New York City Hall on Tuesday to promote the national launch of e-scooter sharing company, Bolt Mobility.
The two Bolts share a name, so it only made sense that Bolt the company would bring Bolt the human onboard as its official brand ambassador. At the conference, standing next to Bolt the man was the company’s newly unveiled “Chariot,” a scooter model large enough to store a rider’s bags and comes complete with two cup holders.
The Olympic gold medalist stood on the Chariot for photos, but he didn’t ride it. That’s because he can’t. E-scooters are illegal in New York.
While the conference promoted Bolt Mobility, its new line of e-scooters, and Usain Bolt’s role in a scooter sharing company, the focal point — even when it wasn’t specifically being talked about — was the scooter’s legal status. And it was clear that Bolt Mobility wanted to highlight it. Why else would a startup put together a big product launch with a world-renowned athlete on the steps of New York City Hall?
The company, along with its celebrity brand ambassador, even released a new online commercial today. The video features Usain Bolt practicing how to safely ride an e-scooter in a big city where its presumably legal. At the very beginning of the clip, a billboard clearly labels the location as New York City.
“There’s a major traffic crisis in New York City,” said Bolt co-founder and co-CEO Dr. Sarah Haynes to reporters, referencing the city’s MTA woes. “We’re excited to be able to help solve that problem in an environmentally friendly way.”
“I have run in cities all over the world, and I can tell you first hand that traffic is getting worse and worse in every city on every continent on earth,” said Bolt ambassador Usain Bolt. “The air quality is also getting worse, and I feel that now is the time that we must do something about it.”
E-scooter sharing is having a moment. On the , scooter companies like Bird and Lime are becoming almost as ubiquitous as Uber and Lyft. In fact, both taxi ride sharing companies in the as well. Uber is even interested in one of the two biggest e-scooter companies.
However, e-scooters have had their share of controversies, even where they’re legal. to and the fact that the scooters are dockless, leaving customers to just litter the sidewalks with e-scooters when they’re done using them, have already given this relatively young industry a bad name.
The Miami Beach-based Bolt Mobility already has a fleet of scooters available to rent via smartphone app for 15 cents per minute in cities like Fort Lauderdale, Florida as well as in Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia. Bolt also today touting how its worked with these cities to form a mutually beneficial relationship for residents and local government alike.
However, riding an e-scooter in New York, the U.S. city with the biggest and most heavily used public transit system, can result in a $500 civil penalty. The rider’s scooter will also be impounded.
But, that may soon change. Governor Andrew Cuomo e-scooter legalization and the scooter companies have hired lobbyists to make sure it happens.
Speaking to press at Tuesday’s event, Bolt Mobility’s executive vice president of operations Will Nicholas made it seem like the company was hoping to curry favor with the people of New York in the legalization fight. Perhaps learning from one of Amazon’s missteps in pro-labor New York, the Bolt VP mentioned how the company would be “open-minded to New York’s labor community” in regards to the unionization of its employees.
There are currently bills at both the city and state level e-scooters in New York, which could very well be just months away.
“We’re on the precipice of major mobility change in this city,” said Nicholas.