It developed in real time on the streets around the Austin Convention Center.
Users took more than 377,000 rides on more than 10,000 scooters during the 10-day event, according to the Austin Transportation Department, an influx that highlighted the potential and pitfalls of a type of transportation that has rapidly grown in popularity over the past year.
At times, scooters seemed like an optimal transportation mode, perfect for hauling riders among SXSW events throughout the downtown; the city's data show the median distance of a trip was 0.65 miles.
Yet at other times, scooters inspired a proliferation of four-letter words — beyond the brand names Lime, Bird, Jump, Skip and Spin. Riders were on sidewalks crashing into pedestrians, in bike lanes angering bicyclists and joining cars and trucks on city streets.
"My Uber driver almost hit one," said Shailen Bhatt, CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, echoing a familiar sentiment heard around the show. "How long until someone gets on an interstate on one just to show they can?"
Amid the SXSW frenzy, Lyft, which holds a permit for 1,500 scooters in the city, distributed a "Guide To Good Scootiquette," which addressed the "madness of scootopia," and confessed that scooters had "mutated into one part transportation, one part social experiment."
Experts marveled at the rapid adoption of scooters, questioned how infrastructure should evolve to handle their arrival, worried about the safety of helmetless riders and pedestrians and debated the role of regulation for a fledgling transportation mode.