Scooters in Baltimore. Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Mayor Jenny Durkan, writing at GeekWire:

We can bring scooters to Seattle with a thoughtful, well-planned pilot. In the coming weeks, we will begin drafting the next iteration of the bike share permit that will be approved by Council this fall. In conjunction, we will be working to stand up a scooter share permit pilot. This will allow the City to take a holistic approach to micro-mobility management.

We will focus on four non-negotiable principles: safety, fairness to riders, protection of taxpayers through full indemnification, and equity. While some companies may see these requirements as too restrictive, they are too important not to fight for.

To give you a sense of the mayor’s priorities, he word “thoughtful” appears four times in the piece and “safety” appears nine. Read the accompanying article in GeekWire for more details.

For more on the safety angle, check out this piece in The Verge on the CDC study the mayor mentions. Unsurprisingly, first-time riders tend to get hurt most often. (Yes, of course, cars are dangerous too, not just to their occupants but to everyone else. As a society, though, we have developed ways to teach people how to bike and drive. Perhaps scooter lessons need to be more widespread?)

Still scooters are lots of fun and useful, and I see no reason why they wouldn’t be very popular in Seattle as they are in most cities (including our neighbors Tacoma and Portland). In fact, the mayor seems to be assuming that they might be so popular as to snuff out our free floating bike sharing, as they’ve done in virtually every other city in America.

Free floating bike share is all but vanishing, squeezed by docked systems on one side and scooters on the other. If the Mayor’s office is concerned about preserving bike share, it may make more sense to re-consider a docked system like the old Pronto (but actually fund it adequately this time).

graph of bike and scooter trips.. scooters are winning. City Council will be getting a scooter demo at City Hall today at noon.  Based on the mayor’s piece it doesn’t sound like you’ll be able to rent a scooter in Seattle until fall at the earliest. Alternatively you can buy one directly from Bird for $1,299.

119 Replies to “The scooters are coming… eventually”

  1. Hell no to docked bikeshare. It offers a worse experience (because you have to be near / find a dock) and docks probably wouldn’t be available as widely across the city. In other cities, even Lime has completely pivoted to scooters, despite them not being ideal for everyone.

    I’m no fan of the mayor’s transportation record, but preserving free-floating bikeshare should be an absolute prerequisite to adding scooters to the mix. Kudos to her for understanding that.

    1. It offers a worse experience (because you have to be near / find a dock) and docks probably wouldn’t be available as widely across the city.

      What makes you think that bikes are widely available across the city? Either way you have to get to a bike. You are basically arguing that Seattle couldn’t possible do it right, the way that so many other cities have. You need to have lots of docks, everywhere, to build a successful docked bike share system.

    2. Having lived in DC, Minneapolis, and New York, I’m not sure what the problem with docked bikeshare is. As long as you have an expansive network covering the areas where people bike, it works great. I like it a lot better than a dockless system as I always know where to find a bike, no app needed. Moreover, a docked bikeshare has a dedicated place to return the bike so they aren’t littered across sidewalks. If Seattle did a docked bikeshare system the right way (the way other docked systems have been built), it wouldn’t be a problem.

    3. Would there be docks in places like 80th & Greenwood, Magnuson Park, 15th Ave S south of Spokane Street, 55th & 40th NE, and other smaller commercial areas and residential areas so people can find a bike all over the city? The dockless ones go to some surprising places, and it’s good that we’ve had it for a few years to see where bike demand really is. I’m afraid that a docked system won’t get further north Roosevelt, further east than than the U-District (plus the Children’s outpost), and further south than say Dearborn Street and maybe a narrow ribbon down Rainier to Columbia City. Unlike New York and DC Seattle is small islands of multifamily density in a sea of single-family houses, and the bikeshare companies may only put docks in areas within three miles of the Ship Canal.

      1. I should think/hope so. Minneapolis is far less dense than Seattle and NiceRide has docks throughout the city. There are clusters of docks in Downtown Minneapolis and other urban areas such as Midtown, Uptown, Northeast, and the U, but there are also several docks in the further-flung suburban areas (including areas less densely populated than Wedgwood or even Haller Lake). If Minneapolis puts docks in low-density single-family neighborhoods, why can’t Seattle do the same?

      2. Didn’t Minneapolis switch to allowing duplexes and rowhouses everywhere in the city, or even missing-middle apartments? Seattle is still stuck on limiting these to the 25% of the land that’s multifamily, and having severe height dropoffs just one block from a main street.

      3. It’ll probably take a little while for the development pipeline to actually get going. IIRC the 4plex thing was passed sometime last year.

      4. Bellevue has a mixed solution, which can work. The bikes are dockless, but in the downtown core there are painted spaces that function as virtual docks. So in dense spaces, bikes are controls & not scatter and in the way, but in less dense residential spaces the bikes can float.

      5. I see two issues with docked bikes in Seattle— 1). the ghost of Pronto, and the reluctance to try something like this again. 2) Will docks be put in poor, minority communities.

        .

    4. The City sets the rules, right? The fact they were scared to death in previous iterations of ‘stifling competition’ and so on doesn’t mean they can’t require docks in specific locations (as much as they like). Obviously you have to make it pencil out for the vendor, but if docked bikesharing is the preference (and it would be for me, given the ongoing issues with dockless bikes on sidewalks) then figure it out. Then let’s talk about scooter parking.

  2. In general, the cities that have scooters are low density, while the cities that have docked bikes are high density. I just got back from New York, and spent all my time in Manhattan. The idea of a dockless bike system, or a dockless scooter system sounds terrible. There is no room for them on the sidewalks, and I’m sure people would toss them in the street (especially the bike lane).

    Seattle is not as dense as New York. But in my opinion we are big enough to justify a docked system. We just need to fund it well, like Frank wrote.

    1. We can easily take away car parking spots and require people to leave the dockless bikes in those spots. This would work in NYC. You fine the user for not leaving the dockless bike in designated bike parking areas.

      1. >easily

        That would require a different Mayor and a slightly less spineless SDOT director.

      2. CitiBike is simply ubiquitous in New York. I’m currently in a fairly low density part of Brooklyn, and there are docks every few blocks. You see people riding them everywhere, too. This is in part because there is generally good cycling infrastructure, and because biking is the fastest way to get most places in New York.

      3. or you do what Spokane is doing, and geofence the parking areas. The scooter won’t turn off if it isn’t in one.

    2. “We can easily take away car parking spots and require people to leave the dockless bikes in those spots”

      Can we? Why did the NE 65th Street and 25th Ave NE complete streets fail then?

      1. And N. 40th St.

        A/k/a no one rides up the street now so let’s make sure that’s always the case.

  3. We’re already in the midst of an informal e-scooter pilot in the form of people illegally riding e-scooters and other e-things around the city. The results have been pretty dismal, but what one can expect from the selfish people that choose to illegally ride them. Other cities that allow them show the same results on a grander scale.

    I don’t know anyone who could look at the results of that informal pilot and say “gee, what we need are more of these!”. They seem to exist solely for the purpose of lazy people to get where they’re going faster at the expense of pedestrian and bicycle safety.

    Maybe we can encourage Durkan to take a trip to Portland or San Jose to see firsthand how bad e-scooters can get.

    1. “The results have been pretty dismal.”

      Citation needed.

      And not a stupid anecdote about something that almost happened on the Burke. (key word: almost) How many deaths and serious injuries have these e-hooligans caused?

      How is that automobile pilot study going? Multiple deaths every month this year, same as every year?

      1. We get it. This crew loves scooters and hates cars. As a prdfestrian I am so tempted to start kicking over abandoned limes and jumps that are left blocking sidewalks by the selfish jerk offs who love these pieces of trash. Dismal doesn’t start to cover it.

      2. As a “prdfestrian” myself, I take offense to this. I am ambivalent about scooters and hate cars.

    2. Yes, how dare people want to get where they’re going at a reasonable speed in an emissions-free manner. Thankfully we’re going to move ahead and join other cities in making this option more widely available. As a last mile link to transit, scooters can’t be beat.

      1. As long as they don’t ride on the sidewalk, or take up sidewalk space, then whatever. Anything with a motor should be relegated to the street, and pedestrians should always have a dedicated pathway. I walk the last 0.91 miles from CHS to home in 15-17 minutes, so it’s not like the “last mile” problem is some crazy death march.

      2. I’m concerned about safety for pedestrians on the sidewalks. Is the impact of a scooter going down the sidewalk like a skateboard but faster? I occasionally get skateboards weaving around people on Pine Street going to downtown, and while all the skateboarders seem to be in control it’s still somewhat unnerving.

        I haven’t seen many electric scooters around, maybe one or two this year. I see more Segways than scooters. Maybe there are more in RapidRider’s area. I did see two children with scooters at the South Kirkland P&R apartments, although i don’t remember for sure whether they were electric.

      3. My main conflicts with them are on the BGT and Westlake Cycle Track, plus sidewalks around SLU. I see a few incidents and near misses per week. Increasing the e-crap by a few orders of magnitude is not going to be pretty.

    3. As a Portland native who hasn’t ridden a scooter but drives/walks/bikes all over town, I really have no idea what you are talking about. They don’t seem to pose much of a danger to other road users. The only incident I witnessed first-hand was a scooter-bro getting clipped at low speed by an inattentive Subaru mom while he zipped through a marked crosswalk. I’ve had more issues with sketchy urban campers riding bikes against traffic, on sidewalks, etc.

      I’m still waiting for our elected leaders to end this disastrous motor vehicle trial period. 40,000+ dead and hundreds of thousands injured every year.

      1. I’ve been to Portland three times since their pilot started last July(?). Each trip I’ve witnessed at least one scooter-pedestrian collision that was solely the fault of the scooter rider acting like an ass. Beyond that, there were plenty of near misses that were avoided because the pedestrian had the wherewithal to see that the scooter rider wasn’t going to stop and were able to dodge them.

        Just because most incidents are avoided because of last second avoidance doesn’t somehow legitimize e-scooters and their rider’s behavior.

        Cars are dangerous, but pedestrians and cyclists should have a reasonable expectation of safety from motorized morons on sidewalks and trails.

      2. Agreed. Hundreds of pedestrians are killed every year in the US while walking on sidewalks. 99% of these deaths are caused by motor vehicle operators running them down, often while driving recklessly.

      3. Let’s turn the misogyny and stereotypes off. Not relevant to this conversation

        What I do find challenging about e-scooters is that they are essentially needing their own lane. On the BGT/WestlakeCT this is evident, in a space that only fits 4 (2 each direction, walkers and bicycles) because of average speed of travel. How can we fit them into existing limited infrastructure while considering safety for all users?

      4. Scooters would not be a nuisance if we built out the bike lane network.

        It’s really annoying to ride scooters on the sidewalk. But if there is no space for them on the street then people will use the sidewalk.

  4. Even money aside, a docked system has the fundamental problem that it requires city officials to enumerate the location of each and every dock. Which means every dock must go through the full Seattle Process. Docks also take up much space than individual bikes, since it is never cost effective to put in a dock unless you can fit at least 5-10 bikes on it, and the demand for that particular block is sufficient to justify it. The inevitably result is no docks on any of the residential streets, no docks on streets where the sidewalk only has room for 1-2 bikes, rather than 5-10, no docks on streets where the demand only justifies 1-2 bikes, rather than 5-10, no docks on blocks where a business owner complains he doesn’t want a dock in front of his store. And, definitely, no on-street docks displacing car parking spaces, because the neighborhood associations dominated by people who always drive and never walk or bike will most certainly complain. After the whole process plays out, what’s left? Inevitably, what’s left is basically a Pronto-like system, covering a bit more surface area.

    Similarly, even when docks get approved, the Seattle Process will inevitably lead to docks in sub-optimal locations. So, getting between the dock and the nearby train you’d want to bike on requires riding up a steep hill for half a block, or worse, lugging the bike up or down a flight of stairs. Sometimes, accessing the dock might require waiting for a long stoplight to cross a busy street, then waiting to cross that same stoplight again on foot, the other way, after the bike has been returned.

    For example, SLU should be prime territory for bikeshare, since it’s flat, things are just the right distance apart, and east/west transit service is virtually non-existent. Now, imagine your origin and destination are both on the north side of Mercer, but the only dock near your destination is on the south side. Are you going to be willing to spend 10 minutes of your life waiting at crosswalks to cross Mercer twice? Or, are you just going to say “screw it”, walk all the way, and not bother with bikeshare at all?

    There is only specific case where a docked system may be appropriate, and that’s when the sidewalks are so congested that it’s the only way to maintain order. Manhattan probably meets that criteria, but is likely the only area in the country of its size that does. In Seattle, if a docked system makes sense at all, it would have to a hybrid approach – maybe, within a small area comprising the middle of downtown, you are required to park at a dock, but everywhere else, you can park anywhere that’s not in the way.

    Docks just don’t scale for anything the size of an entire city. Even in New York, CitiBike still hasn’t reached upper Manhattan, nor has it reached Brooklyn and Queens beyond a narrow strip within a few blocks of the East River. And it took them nearly a decade to get their service area expanded to where it is now. For years, it was basically the section of Manhattan south of Central Park, and that was about it. I don’t think CitiBike would be able to survive at all (Without massive taxpayer subsidies) in areas with Seattle-level population density, rather than New York-level population density.

    1. I agree with asdf2. The experience of trying to get a Pronto station next to the University St tunnel entrance on 2nd showed me that dockless can’t work without a ruthlessness taht we don’t have.

    2. Yes, this. If you’re going to rank all the street corners in the city by priority for a bike dock, the one where I live is maybe around #1,000 or so. On the plus side, it’s a minor arterial with half-hourly bus service, but it’s also right in the middle of a single-family area so there just isn’t a ton of demand.

      Would a docked system have 1,000 stations? I have my doubts, even if it’s “properly funded.” If I wanted to use the thing I’d probably have to walk several minutes to either of the nearest pockets of commercial activity. And yet, with Lime there’s often a bike right on my corner, and I very rarely have to walk more than two blocks to find one.

    3. To be clear, I have nothing against dockless bike share and I agree it has lots of advantages. But the sharing companies are quite clearly abandoning it, as you can see from the charts above. The mayor is probably correct that if scooters are allowed in Seattle, dockless bike share will disappear.

      Docked seems to at least have some staying power, perhaps because it’s older or perhaps because it has fixed infrastructure.

      1. To be clear, I have nothing against dockless bike share and I agree it has lots of advantages. But the sharing companies are quite clearly abandoning it, as you can see from the charts above.

        The chart shows me no such thing. Looking at the bar graph, I can see dockless bike share (the blue in the bar graphs) had essentially zero trips in 2016, about 1 million in 2017, and about 10 million in 2018. That doesn’t seem like something being “abandoned” to me.

        Scooters have absolutely exploded onto the scene, going from nothing to several times the usage of dockless bikes in just one year. That doesn’t mean the bikes are being abandoned. The data in the chart shows that they are also growing quite rapidly.

      2. Fair enough. My impression, from talking to the bike share companies, is that they see scooters as the future. The economics are just better.

        ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      3. Ebikes are going away because scooters are better in nearly every conceivable way. When presented a choice, consumers overwhelmingly choose scooters.

        When considering the cost of maintenance, e-bikes should probably cost about 3x the price of a scooter to rent. They take up too much space and have too many moving parts for cost effective maintenance. Plus they clutter the sidewalks more than scooters. Ebikes are better for recreation and for hauling stuff in the basket. That’s about it.

        As in other cities, Seattle’s scooter laws will likely require that 100% of scooters must be collected EVERY NIGHT. A half-dozen scooters fit in the back of a Prius so it’s easy for the “bird hunters” to collect and charge them every night. The app also requires you to take a picture of it being properly parked at the end of the ride.

    4. The city can put painted rectangles all around as a space to leave dockless bikes. The number and scope that would be needed is similar to bus stops, so the city might use those as a starting point for where to put them. They may be partly in and partly out of sidewalks, but having bikes lying in regular spaces would reduce clutter and having them in wildly unsuitable places.

      1. Bike parking zones in streets should also be considered. You’re already prohibited from parking your car within 30 feet of a stop sign or 20 feet of a crosswalk, which makes a lot of sense for the purpose of helping drivers see things in their path. Bikes seem to present much less of a sight blockage concern. Seems like this area would be a great spot to put bike racks without blocking people on sidewalks or taking away any car parking.

      2. @Eric,
        Totally agree, people should just leave the bikeshare bikes in on street parking spaces. Enough with the little car-free space left being carved up by bikeshare and now scooters. Time for the SOVs to share our burden.

  5. Having just read the previous post about the Via shuttle service, bikeshare and scooter share feels like a much more fiscally sustainable option for first/last mile access to Link than paying a bunch of people to go driving around in taxis. Including wait time, people would probably get home more quickly with bikes and scooters too.

  6. Whatever the dangers in the details, and the treacheries of memory that make fake news look like Pulitzer’s finest, my life’s years put me in a rare position to verify how few eight year old Chicago subway, elevated, PCC, and especially North Shore Electroliner passengers in 1953 could have dreamed in their wildest that they’d be sharing sidewalks, platforms and aisles with electrified green scooters. Let alone those things that are essentially a single wheel with a motor that’d power the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin.

    While scooters did indeed exist in crowded urban settings, I guarantee that neither the Chicago Transit Authority nor the rock and roll number named after it could ever comprehend a world where they were any other color but red and white, or ever carried aboard transit by somebody wearing a suit. However, before I forget what I was going to say about memory, just brace yourselves for what-all your grand-kids are going to scuff your shoes by making you ride next to. After all, what’s really is the word “eclectic” but an emission-free power source with a spelling error?

    Mark

  7. A /high enough/ density of scooters/bikes will substantially impede sidewalks. Particularly if the vulgar elements of our Seattle community tip them over. that said:

    we’re not even approximately close enough to that kind of density; this entire discussion is evidence of fear based policies that impede innovation and promote the car lifestyle. Scooters, bikes, etc should be prima fascie allowed, and there’s adequate laws to cite idiots harming others.

  8. “Yes, of course, cars are dangerous too, not just to their occupants but to everyone else.”

    The most dangerously-operated scooter is still safer than the most safely-operated automobile for everyone but the operator. I mean, just look at all the car ‘accidents’ where someone dies and no one is cited. Just one of those things, nothing we can do about it…

    I would prefer if others assume the risk of their behaviors instead of foisting that danger on me and everyone else. Was gonna ride a scooter but instead I got that new Ferd Truck – airbags, side impact airbags, crumple zones, death spikes on the grill, the works, so safe! Yeah… it’s too tall to see kids crossing the street over that badass hood scoop but you hardly even notice the bump with these giant studded tires I rock year-round and you won’t hear ’em scream thanks to the whisper-quiet cabin and the DOLBY SURROUND SOUND. USA USA USA!!1

    1. Dangerous for their occupants, and ESPECIALLY dangerous for everyone else. Traffic violence is one of the biggest public health crises in our country. It’s laughable to call scooters dangerous while this mass carnage occurs right in front of us. We’ve had 14 deaths on city streets in Portland this year so far. This is insane.

      1. Citation on what?

        You can look up the biggest cause of death for people aged 14-29 or whatever, and it’s cars. They kill more people than guns.

      2. Pat – a citation on the claim that there have been 14 deaths on Portland city streets. Since this poster seems to want a citation for everything he doesn’t agree with, I figured he might want to provide a citation here.

        And I am aware that cars are the biggest cause of death. That doesn’t make the posters claim accurate without a citation. That’s like saying that the weather is getting warmer, and that alone proves it’s 80 degrees today.

      3. This seems unnecessarily pedantic. What difference does it make if the number is 10? Or 7? Or 3?

    2. We get it. You hate cars. You never use them. Ever. Nor take ubers! (or is that ok, as long as you don’t own the car, I don’t know your rules).

      Cars kill more people than scooters, so there should be no regulations on any mode of transportation until cars are gone. An interesting logic, rather black and white.

      But we are talking about scooters. Can we stay on topic?

      1. Hyperventilating about scooter safety while cars continue to kill tens of thousands of people is a serious case of misplaced priorities. SUVs and pickups nowadays are practically designed to kill people (note the gradual rise in hood height in the past decade, ensuring that anyone unfortunate enough to get hit is going under the wheels instead of onto the hood), but they’re 100% street legal in every city.

      2. Agreed. The comparison to vehicle-involved injury/fatality statistics is not particularly helpful to the discussion at hand and, frankly, strikes me as a red herring type of argument.

        I’ve been to several cities where e-scooters are in use (most often San Diego) and, like RapidRider mentions elsewhere in this post, I’ve witnessed numerous near collisions and actual collisions between pedestrians and scooter users riding on crowded sidewalks and beach/waterfront promenades. I agree with Felsen’s comments up above; e-scooter use should be confined to the streets and bike lanes.

      3. “Hey, I know there’s blood gushing out of my neck, but we’re talking about paper cuts here. Can’t we just focus on this paper cut on my finger?”

      4. You don’t get it, actually.

        “Cars kill more people than scooters, so there should be no regulations on any mode of transportation until cars are gone. An interesting logic, rather black and white.”

        Who said that? If you operate a scooter recklessly and injure someone you should be held accountable, just like motorists (If only.)

        To repeat, the logic is that the most dangerously-operated scooter is still safer than the most safely-operated car. If you regulate scooters to a point where they are no longer useful the person still makes the trip – in their car.

        FYI I own a truck, drive it rarely. Never taken an Uber/Lyft. I mostly get around by bike and anticipate the scooters to be mostly a PITA for me personally because I don’t anticipate using them and they’ll be in the bike lanes. I would still much prefer that potential annoyance to the actual mortal danger of another car sharing my route. I can also see how they would be fun and useful for others and I don’t see a compelling reason to stymie the trend.

      5. You guys are arguing a straw man. We are discussing the merits of scooters.

        Yes, cars kill more people. Cars are a lot heavier and have the majority of mode share. Yes. This is all true – but not on topic.

      6. It’s a common red herring argument here – the statement itself isn’t false at all, but it has nothing to do with the specific topic at hand. It nearly always comes up at some point in any thread dealing with bicycles or (now) scooters. Its corollary, at least on this site, is the tu quoque fallacy “yeah, maybe that cyclist ran into you; well, cars kill 40,000 people!”

        It’s very akin to the “but her emailzzzzzz!” a wholly different sort of person likes to use as an “argument.”

        As someone who is a pedestrian and transit user for nearly every single trip I take, I still find this annoying on a site filled with intelligent people, nearly all of whom have the same or similar goals in mind.

      7. Discussing whether or not scooters should be permitted for safety concerns is an implicit admission that you’re unconcerned about the safety concerns around cars. So the number of pedestrian injuries will increase marginally if we permit e-scooters. Big whoop. The number is already high thanks to all these unregulated cars driving around. If your concern is pedestrian injury, your concern is grossly misdirected.

        No one’s ever proposed a moratorium on cars until we figure out what’s going on. You guys are akin to the right-wingers freaking out about hypothetical immigrant crime as a reason to close the border.

        [obs]

      8. “Sure, there’s a lot of crime committed by American citizens. But we’re talking about immigrant crime here. Please try to stay on topic.”

    3. Cars aren’t normally driven on the sidewalk. The rare time a car gets onto the sidewalk is when a drunk driver gets way out of lane. Much of the push to eliminate drunk driving the past few decades was to minimize things like that. In contrast, scooters regularly ride on the sidewalk when there’s no bike lane. And some bike trails are shared with pedestrians so they’re similar to sidewalks. Electric scooters never existed before so there’s no past history. But if you add a bunch of electric scooters to sidewalks, the collision rate on sidewalks will rise to a similar level as the collision rate on streets.

      1. Cars drive on sidewalks all of the time. Have you heard of driveways? Pedestrians are hit and killed on sidewalks all of the time. It’s a significant danger, which is why many parking garages have those ridiculous pedestrian warning lights/horns. Watch out guys, a sociopath is about to emerge at speed from a blind driveway! Step back so you don’t get crushed to death!

        This whole discussion is just silly. We are wasting time talking about scooter regulations, because they aren’t a major issue in the grand scheme of things. And restrictive regulations and “trials” just discourage their use, which encourages car use (more people driving to work, taking Uber, etc). We should be encouraging every single form of emission-free, non-car transportation that we have at our disposal. Scooters, e-bikes, light rail, etc.

      2. That’s crossing a sidewalk from a driveway to the street, not driving on the sidewalk (or crossing it from the street to a telephone pole).

  9. I’ve heard from friends in San Francisco that scooters on sidewalks is becoming the newest danger for pedestrians. I can’t say I’ve experienced that yet.

    It does raise the general issue about how we regulate allowing things on sidewalks. As we see increases of pedestrians resulting from taller buildings and less parking and better transit, will there be ways in which the more crowded sidewalks can be made safer by banning other modes on them?

    1. OK, but let’s ban private storage of automobiles on public streets first. If we just did that there would be plenty of space in the road for (moving) cars, scooters, bikes.., even solowheels and unicycles.

      1. I believe that these scooters are already legal to ride on streets — especially low-speed local streets. Also, I’m not suggesting a universal sidewalk ban but instead a selective one for crowded sidewalks. Just like we restrict modes on other pavements (no cars in bicycle paths), we should be doing the same for some crowded sidewalk segments. Let’s not compare that to an unrealistic, draconian on-street parking ban.

      2. I’m also not saying “no scooters ever”. We just need to look at their real impacts and not rush into the pollyanna vision being pushed by scooter activists. Making complete streets with scooter lanes makes sense, and I agree a lot with the Car Master Plan idea that was linked somewhere.

        If we’re going to accommodate electric scooters and any kind of bike share long-term, then we need to balance the needs of cars, buses, pedestrians, bikes, and scooters. We need to stop making “no reduction in GP lanes or parking spaces” a prerequisite. The linked article talks about NE 50th Street, and how its prerequisite was “don’t reduce the four GP lanes”. That takes 90% of the available land off the table! It’s the same thing that happened with Alaskan Way where the prerequisites were “four GP lanes and a ferry-queuing lane”. So if we wanted to narrow the street, the only choice was to delete the transit lanes. And the Bike Master Plan is being interpreted as “cars can keep their overwhelming priority on other streets”.

      3. I think any modal plan by the City of Seattle is a narrow-minded idea! Why:

        – Plan development participants are usually supporters that steer each plan to an advocacy direction. The plans become imbalanced with public values.

        – Plan décisions about sections of Seattle are not made by people who don’t live in the community. In many cases, a majority of the panel may not even visit a neighborhood being changed more than a few times a year if at all.

        – Communities have a finite amount of right-if-way and each one deserves a front-row discussion on the best way to make trade-offs.

        Instead of citywide modal plans, we need about 8-12 multimodal sector plans (each about 5-10 square miles except for a smaller area Downtown) to get into the nuances of each community’s travel needs and deficiencies. In fact, I resent sone appointed Ballard resident coming into my SE Seattle neighborhood and advocating for any mode when they don’t experience my community’s reality.

    2. The simple rule should be “muscle power only” on the sidewalk and a speed limit of 5 mph. Thus, skateboards, though they are a nuisance and can “speed”, are almost always safe. Bicycles are less safe because they put the rider up high where his or her mass often comes crashing down on the pedestrian. And bikes, of course, have lots of pointy places.

      Nothing powered except wheelchairs should be allowed. If you are too afraid to ride a scooter on an arterial, don’t ride a scooter.

      1. This seems reasonable – Vancouver, BC doesn’t even allow skateboards, but I’d tend to agree with your take. There are no shortage of cities throughout the world that take a similar approach (certainly in “business areas” where you would expect there to be a large number of pedestrians).

  10. All of these e-mobile devices are insane, well insanely dangerous for pedestrians. They should absolutely be banned from all sidewalks. Just take a walk over the Montlake Bridge at rush hour, where the sidewalk constricts at the ends, and see how comfortable it is to be a pedestrian. People that ride e-bikes, e-scooters, or e-whatever, are often going as fast as a Vespa, and don’t give a hoot about anyone but themselves. Make them fend for themselves out in the general traffic.

    1. We need to keep pushing for bike lanes along all arterials so that the e-commuters can ride on them. There will be a new montlake bridge soon with very modern infrastructure thankfully.

  11. “they might be so popular as to snuff out our free floating bike sharing, as they’ve done in virtually every other city in America.”

    How many other cities had a free-floating bikeshare to snuff out? I thought Seattle was one of the only ones, and most bikeshares are docked.

    1. Lime at one point was in over 50 cities and campuses. Lime is quietly removing its bikes from the places it was serving – just search “lime bike remove” and you can see that they’re gone from St. Louis, Mountain View, Monrovia etc.

    2. Should the city authorize the scooters, they can dictate the terms of the operating permit. They can (and should) require that most of the existing bike fleet remain in operation, the scooters just being an add-on on top of it.

      1. If the city was in that business they might have considered mandating the maintenance of the non-electric bike fleet, whose lower price point covered an obviously different niche and made for a persuasive case of public benefit. But it seems Seattle is hilly and rich enough to strongly prefer the more expensive e-bikes, in aggregate. I do know a few people that used to take pedal bikes up and down Capitol Hill and First Hill but balk at the e-bike fares, and a few more people that used pedal bikes along the Burke to get to the UW Link Station, but they seem to be in the minority.

        If scooters turn out to have better “unit economics”, as the think-pieces say, than e-bikes, the e-bikes would probably end up more expensive for users. The bikes are probably better at handling rough pavement and higher-speed descents, though with their solid tires and questionable brake performance, maybe only a little. I could see a better case for the city mandating a value option than a premium option… and the e-bikes certainly wouldn’t be the value option!

  12. My dream: a fleet of dockless bikes and/or scooters, owned by a government agency, that takes ORCA cards for payment and allows free transfers to other transit modes.

    My employer recently started offering a free Lime bike perk to its workers, and I have to say it’s a pretty liberating thing. It makes last-mile connections so much quicker. What used to be a 10-minute or 15-minute walk at the end of a transit journey is now shortened to a five-minute bike ride in many cases. Also there have been more than a couple of occasions where I check OneBusAway, see that the next bus won’t get there for a while, and I hop on a bike for the whole trip. It gets me there faster than waiting for the bus, and I get some exercise as well! It’s pretty great.

    That said, I never even seriously considered using the bikes before they were free. At $1 plus 20 cents per minute, paying for a Lime bike on the last mile would basically cost bus fare all over again. Very rarely am I in so much of a hurry that I’d be willing to pay that much to save a few minutes of walking.

    Your first question might be “how are we going to pay for this?”

    Look at it this way. Metro pays something on the order of $1 million for each bus it purchases. How many electric bikes can you buy for that amount of money? A thousand, give or take? Metro pays $150 for each hour it operates a bus. How many bikes can you recharge and repair for that amount of money? Seems like we should be able to buy and operate a citywide fleet of bikes for what we would pay to buy and operate a handful of buses. I’d bet that if people could use their existing transit passes to pay for bike rides, these could easily replace enough bus demand that you wouldn’t need to add quite as many peak trips to packed Seattle routes. This could quite possibly save as much money as it costs.

    How to make my dream a reality? Who do we ask for a feasibility study on this, or a pilot program? I’d love to see it happen.

  13. How on earth would scooters work here? Are they all just going to end up at the bottom of all the hills?

      1. Unless they’re significantly beefier than the ones I’ve used in other cities, you’d be doing well to get any of these up a big Seattle hill. If you’re a big guy (like me) you’re pretty much limited to flat and near-flat.

  14. A side discussion is needed between kick scooters, motor scooters and hybrids. Regulations and training may need to be quite different for each type.

    I think that street-only shared motor scooters (similar to a low-power mini-bike) could be a great way to offer last-Mike service instead of Via for SE Seattle, for example.

    Scoot.co is now operating them in Santiago, San Francisco and Barcelona.

  15. Scooters and bikes are for different distance scales. Scooters replace walking for half-mile or one-mile trips. Bikes are also useful for 3, 5, and 10-mile trips. If bikesharing is replaced by scootersharing completely, we’ll lose that “missing middle” scale, which is really useful in those outer areas I mentioned like Greenwood, Magnuson Park, Rainier Valley, etc, where it can take an hour to ride one or two buses across town.

  16. How well do scooters and bikes interact in bike lanes? Can scooters reach the same speed as bikes or are they slower?

    1. The picture has a horizontal scooter without handlebars (i.e., you stand on it with both legs side by side rather than one in front of the other). Is that a scooter? I’ve seen something like that in Seattle a couple times but i thought they were Segways, so I didn’t include them when I said I’ve only seen electric scooters a couple of times. But are they scooters, and do the scootershares have them?

      1. What picture? The one at the top of this article definitely has handles.

        It sounds like you’re talking about those hoverboard things that are banned from airplanes. No, I don’t think any of the e-scooters are like that. They’re just like kick scooters, except with some sort of motor.

      2. It’s in the middle of the article, section “Will You Look Like a Wanker Riding Them”, second from the left.

        I don’t know what you mean by hoverboard. It sounds like one of those flying skateboard in Back To The Future II.

      3. I see what you mean now. Yeah, those things are popularly referred to as hoverboards, despite not actually hovering. They were in the news a year or two ago because their batteries kept catching fire, leading to them being banned from commercial flights.

        No, I don’t believe any company currently rents those.

  17. Perhaps someone with more knowledge on the subject matter can chime in here…..

    Are companies like Bird and Lime keeping up with the maintenance demands required of them because of their growing fleets? Specifically, have they been able to find enough contracted labor to do the hard work of rounding up e-scooters for recharging and relocation every night? Frankly I haven’t been able to wrap my head around the logistical challenge this must present under their current business model. Granted, loading e-scooters into the back of a van or truck each night must be significantly easier and more efficient than doing likewise with e-bikes.

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

  18. I’ve used e-scooters in Portland, Tacoma, Atlanta, and Tel Aviv. They’re amazing wherever it’s flat and there’s lots of bike/shared-use trail. In Tel Aviv especially, they’re massive — they surely account for a significant percentage of trips in the central city. Compared to bikes, they take up less room when parked, and are mechanically much more robust; the only downside is that most don’t have baskets, and they really struggle on steep hills.

    I look forward to their adoption in Seattle. Yes, it will take time for people to figure out how to use them in a safe and non-antisocial way, but I believe we can figure it out. The intelligent, sustainable-mobility-oriented response to overcrowding in the parts of the street set aside for non-motorized use is to reallocate space from the motorized part of the street.

      1. In Austin, the only place where I encountered them, they were ridden on sidewalks at night and were very dangerous. You can only see a headlight approaching you; you don’t see the slightest outline of the rider or the scooter. They’re silent. It’s not a safe combination. Particularly when the rider is drunk.

  19. I had two funny ideas about preserving dockless bike share while allowing scooters.

    One is to adjust the fees. The switch to e-bikes in Seattle mainly happened when the city introduced a steep fee for bike share bikes. This is because the e-bikes are a higher cost but higher earning vehicle. But I have a hunch. I think the sort of people who prefer an e-bike over a regular one would prefer an e-scooter over an e-bike. I bet if we charged the same current fee for e-bikes and e-scooters, but charged no fees for regular rent-a-bikes, the regular bikes would make a come back. People who want to ride bikes could still do so and people who want to ride scooters would get to do so as well. Incidentally, this probably also works out better logistically for charging, because gathering bikes to charge is a lot harder than gathering scooters.

    The other idea is to only allow one bike share company and one e-bike company. There would be micro-mobility competition, but it would be between the bike share company and the scooter share company. Then there could be ad campaigns to scooter and counter ad campaigns to bike. Hopefully they both work at the expense of cars.

  20. I’m a little confused about all the hand wringing about scooters. Yes, they are annoying when left in inconvenient places by selfish and/or inebriated individuals, and yes, people tend to ride them erratically, but the same could be said for bike share, which we already have and no one is suggesting we get rid of. And for those complaining that you don’t need to do work to move, don’t you think that sounds a little elitist?

    By the end of the day, I fail to see how scooters are a big problem. It’s not like scooters can cause a plague of toxic smoke to descend on our cities, or start wars, or decimate 40 thousand US citizens in a mere year, or turn the entire planet into an inhabitable desert, unlike some other way of getting around that I can think of.

    What scooters can do is get more people using bike level infrastructure. The more people who have a vested interest in bike infrastructure, the easier it will be to get bike lanes installed. The more bike lanes installed, the more people who will be able to enjoy the benefits of cycling.

    1. The problem is that people over 50 don’t understand them. It’s a “kids these days” kind of issue, primarily. How many baby boomers have you seen riding them?

    2. Society has decades of experience with bikes on sidewalks and most bicyclists will slow to a pedestrian speed when they’re on the sidewalk. Skateboarders don’t, and my fear is that scooters will weave around pedestrians like skateboards only faster

    3. Any kind of change in our society right now get attacked. It’s why we still haven’t adopted the metric system, or built high speed rail, or adopted universal healthcare.

      There are legitimate risks to riding a bike or a scooter, but i think the bigger picture is psychological. We’ve become a society obsessed with maintaining the status quo, even when the status quo is bad, and fearful of change.

      Most of the major controversies in our society boil down to people, usually older people, getting hysterical about change.

      At the same time, our society is aging, younger people vote vote at a lower rate, so the group most fearful of change has come to dominate the discourse. This contrasts to the 70’s and 80’s when a huge chunk of the population was made of young people, and the over 65 contingent was actually quite small.

    4. Sure, if they’re on the street, go for it. All motorized things should share one space, and probably bikes too. Pedestrians are uniquely vulnerable, and leg power should have a dedicated path. Most cyclists don’t ride on the sidewalk for safety reasons, so I don’t see why people are arguing e-scooters should get special treatment.

  21. Lots of people in denial about the dangers of scooters vs cars. So, time for a few facts.

    The best study of scooter accident risks is the Austin CDC study. One accident serious enough to warrant an emergency room visit every 4800 miles.

    Compare to cars, where the accident risk, depending on what your source is, is 1/165,000 to 1/300,000. And that’s for all accidents reportable for insurance, not just injuries. Cars are orders of magnitude safer to themselves and everybody else on per mile risk.

    Only 10% of the accidents in the Austin study involved auto collisions. So it’s mostly not people being hit by cars. 7% were lamp post collisions, so almost as much a danger to scooter users as cars.

    These are objectively terrible numbers. In part, it’s driven by inexperience and intoxication (lot of drunk young dudes in the study), so those rates might come down with greater adoption. As things stand, however, this is a wildly dangerous mode of transportation and you can’t spin it as being caused by cars.

    1. I am told that Spokane has forced speed regulation on their e-scooter deployment. Assuming that’s just a software setting, Seattle should absolutely do the same thing. Speed kills.

  22. The City needs to prohibit scooters on sidewalks, at least in dense areas like downtown, the U District, Ballard, etc. I visited a city where those things were allowed on sidewalks, and they were whizzing by at 10-15 mph, coming far too close to pedestrians.

  23. I’m cautiously optimistic on scooters. Not because I’d use them much, but because, due to their popularity, I am hopeful will help create support to build out bike lanes, and hopefully a complete network.

    Fees – Albuquerque instituted a fee so high they would never have made a profit, and Bird flipped themselves and walked. Negotiations have apparently reopened. We shall see.

    They are also much more sensitive to poor pavement than bikes. It isn’t a pleasant ride on beat-up roads.

Comments are closed.