First came e-bikes, then scooters. Now the District is adding mopeds to the mix of micromobility services available in the nation’s capital.

The motor-driven cycles are the latest entrant into the city’s app-based transportation market, and they probably won’t be the last this year. D.C. transportation officials say they’re open to testing whatever happens to be the next big thing in transportation technology.

— Luz Lazo, The Washington Post, Aug. 10, 2019

Looking back, it seems funny that everybody thought the dockless electric mopeds would be the straw that broke the app-based, vehicle-sharing camel’s back, coming as they did after the dockless scooters, dockless bikes and the car-share cars: the Zipcars and the Car2Gos. (Cars2Go?)

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Surely, people thought, the streets of Washington could take no more. But the marketplace abhors a vacuum and only a few weeks after the rental mopeds debuted, they were joined by the dockless steamrollers, courtesy of a macromobility start-up called Flat.

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“We want to revolutionize the world of steamroller rental,” said Devin Willow, Flat’s CEO — compression envisioning officer. “Is there a huge demand for steamrollers? No, but when you want a steamroller, you want it fast. And with our Flat app, customers can locate, unlock and rent a steamroller in minutes — and be on their way to rolling things flat as a pancake in no time.”

Some cyclists complained that the bright orange Flat steamrollers — which weigh 7,000 pounds and feature twin roller drums — were blocking bike lanes, crushing pets and demolishing fire hydrants, but Willow promised that the next refresh of the app would feature a reminder that users should “flatten responsibly.”

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To be honest, most people forgot about the steamrollers once the hovercraft came to town, thanks to a start-up called Skim.

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“We want to revolutionize the world of on-demand amphibious personal transport,” said Dylan Wisp, Skim’s CFO — chief flotation officer. “A scooter or moped is fine for the street but what if you want to go on the street and in the water — and then back on the street? With our Skim app, users can find the nearest hovercraft and be quickly floating on a cushion of air without the time-consuming hassle that has dogged traditional hovercraft procurement.”

Rock Creek, the Tidal Basin and the Reflecting Pool were soon clogged with half-submerged hovercraft, but the main problem was on land.

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“We know some bystanders have been blown into the bushes by the tremendous gusts the Skim hovercraft fans generate, but our next update will include ‘Hover Helper’ technology that should address that,” Wisp said.

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It didn’t. But people weren’t thinking much about the hovercraft once the “Mad Max: Fury Road” Doof Wagons began popping up. They were replicas of the over-the-top vehicle from the 2015 post-apocalyptic action film starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy.

“In the past, if you wanted to scream around town in an eight-wheeled, amplifier-encrusted, smoke-belching, metal juggernaut — threatening pedestrians with a bouncing, bungee-corded guitarist who spews flames from the end of his electric guitar — you’d have to . . . Well, you couldn’t,” said Flynn Grace, CTO — chief Thunderdome officer — of Mutant, the start-up that placed 400 “Mad Max: Fury Road” Doof Wagons on the streets of Washington.

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“But now you can simply use the Mutant app to locate the nearest ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Doof Wagon,” Grace said. “We’ve brought a little bit of Armageddon to the nation’s capital.”

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Actually, a lot of people welcomed the “Mad Max: Fury Road” Doof Wagons because the flamethrowers could be used to torch all the hovercrafts and steamrollers that were parked haphazardly around town.

The scooters, of course, had a tendency to burst into flame on their own.

Sitting on the dockless of the bay

I’m joking! But I do wonder how future historians will make sense of our march toward peak dockless vehicle. How did we end up here? I have a theory.

Remember Heelys, those kids’ shoes with wheels in their soles? They came onto the market around the year 2000. The fad caught on and soon every punk 10-year-old was wheeling this way and that, threatening to knock you over at the mall.

Those kids are now 29, and they’re the ones riding scooters on the sidewalk.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.

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