Mayor Durkan recently announced that Seattle will be looking into how to safely welcome scooter share.

Scooters arrived in Portland, Oregon, for a pilot program last summer, and hoo-boy did they get talked about around that city. And ridden. And dumped in the Willamette River (there was a website tracking how many: 6 at one count) — oh, in portable toilets, too. But mostly ridden. They are super fun, fast enough to contribute as a transportation option, and they’re convenient to grab-and-go.

Swap out “the Willamette River” with one of our own local bodies of water, and pretty much everything written above could have been said (probably was said) during the roll-out of our Seattle bike share program a couple years ago. But when it comes to safety, scooters are different, and Seattle will need the right regulations for a scooter share program to work well. The scooters in Portland are surprisingly fast: a person standing three inches above the pavement scooting through a busy city at 15-mph is more eyebrow-raising to witness in person than to read about in print, I assure you. Additionally, there seem to be a lot of crashes — a couple per week involving cars in the first two weeks of the program. Just applying what we’ve learned here in Seattle from bike share — and copy-pasting those newly-crafted bike share regulations over to a scooter share program — won’t be adequate.

Working down in Portland for a couple months during their initial pilot, I was able to witness and experience the roll-out of their scooter-share program (the scooters then disappeared from Portland, and just recently returned for a second pilot), and I believe scooters can work well in Seattle. But a few changes to how they’re regulated in Portland would vastly improve safety (for scooter riders and pedestrians), as well as improve the likelihood that the public embraces scooters instead of rejects them. And the importance of the latter can’t be overstated: a Google News search of “e scooters” will provide you with headline after headline describing citizen outrage or cities struggling to effectively regulate, and in the case of Paris, deciding last week to ban them [ed note: Paris banned scooters on sidewalks, not entirely]. Most importantly, Seattle must start with regulations that are consistent with human behavior. In Portland, the rules around helmets and sidewalks don’t match people’s actual behavior, making almost every scooter rider a law-breaker. Since the 15 mph governed scooter speed is based on the assumption that no one will ride on the sidewalk and everyone will wear a helmet, there is a mis-match between intended and actual behavior that leads to serious safety problems. Here are some lessons and proposals for us in Seattle:

1) Helmets. Portland requires helmets for scooters. Almost no one uses a helmet (because who carries a spare helmet just in case they might decide to hop on a scooter one day?). Seattle should not require the use of a helmet in the future scooter share program*. (In case we need a rationale: A scooter rider’s center of gravity is basically the same height as a pedestrian’s, so at jogging speeds, simple falls on a scooter are equivalent to a jogger tripping. And we don’t have jogging helmets.) While there are good arguments to be made for wearing a helmet while riding a scooter — such as Mayor Durkan’s citations of traumatic brain injury rates from riding scooters with speeds governed at 15- and 20-mph, the fact remains that people just aren’t going to wear them due to the spontaneous nature of hiring a scooter. Should the city and scooter-share companies promote helmet use? Absolutely. But I submit that it is better to block scooter share from coming to Seattle at all than to include consistently-flouted regulations that beg for unequal, potentially discriminatory enforcement.

2) Riding on sidewalks. Portland doesn’t allow riding on the sidewalk at all. This means scooter riders are forced to decide between really unsafe scooter riding amidst traffic in busy streets, or breaking the law and riding on the sidewalk — I witness both regularly, and I have to say the right choice is sometimes to ride on the sidewalk. Seattle should apply the same rules that we have for bicycles (which were recently extended to e-bikes!): the law states that if you’re riding on the sidewalk, you must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and make an audible sound before overtaking other sidewalk users**.

3) Speed demons. Portland scooters are governed to a max 15 mph. If we are to acknowledge the actual behavior of scooter riders and implement “1” and “2” above, a 15-mph governor is too high. 15 mph scooters are fast. If they were governed to, say 11- or 12-mph (the speed of a fast run, versus a commuter cyclist at about 15 mph), a scooter traveling on the typical neighborhood sidewalk starts to seem reasonable in many instances. And not wearing a helmet (again, almost no one is going to wear one) becomes less of a critical safety issue. A crash at 11 mph has about half the force of a crash at 15 mph — this fact is equally relevant for the scooter rider’s head and for the pedestrian sharing the sidewalk.

Compromise solutions could accomplish the safety goals, as well; for example, there is no reason that there can’t be multiple speed settings and different rules for each. One can imagine a situation where the scooters have two settings (manually chosen through the phone app at time of hire):

Setting 1 for speedy road travel: to use this setting requires a helmet, and the speed is governed at 15 mph

Setting 2 for travel that includes sidewalks: a rider must use this setting when on sidewalks or when not wearing a helmet. There will be some visible indication that this setting is selected (such as blinking lights), and the speed is governed to a pedestrian-compatible 10-12 mph

When scooters are sprinkled alongside our shared bikes throughout Seattle, we must first acknowledge how people use them, and then make guidelines that are consistent. That way our regulations will actually serve their purpose of limiting injuries to scooter riders and the pedestrians they will inevitably interact with.

If we instead create guidelines to try to change human behavior (require helmets and disallow any sidewalk riding), we will have more injuries to all parties, and a more acrimonious relationship between scooter riders, pedestrians and car drivers; and between scooter riders and law enforcement.

Let’s safely and smartly welcome scooter-share to Seattle, so that once it’s here, we’ll want it to stick around.

*State law says it is illegal to ride a “motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or moped” without a helmet, even on city streets; while it doesn’t specify electric “foot scooter” (as it does in other parts of the RCW, like in ** below), it is possible it would take a court opinion to clarify whether helmets are required on foot scooters by state law. [RCW 46.37.530]
**State law gives wide discretion to cities and municipalities regarding foot scooters on shared and pedestrian pathways [RCW 46.61.710 (7)], though if there is both a shared path and a sidewalk available, they are restricted from the sidewalk [RCW 46.61.710 (3)].

79 Replies to “Scooter share coming to Seattle: Lessons learned from Portland’s roll-out”

  1. “Seattle should apply the same rules that we have for bicycles (which were recently extended to e-bikes!): the law states that if you’re riding on the sidewalk, you must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and make an audible sound before overtaking other sidewalk users**.”

    If you believe for 1 second that even 50% of scooter users will actually do this I have several bridges to sell you…

    When biking myself it is ~50/50 whether a passing cyclist calls out or rings a bell even on major trails like the Burke. Is a scooter rider on the sidewalk going to be calling out “on your left” 20 times a block to pedestrians they are passing at 3-4x the speed? Probably not…

    1. I hate that “On your left”; it makes me instinctively move left. I’ve learned not to do it but I wish they’d just say “Passing”.

      1. As a person frequently passing others on sidewalks and trails (both on foot and on bike) I’ve never found any phrase to be universally, or even widely, effective at getting the person being passed to move to the right. I’ve landed on “on your left” because “passing,” “heads up,” “move over,” and “hot pizza” are no less likely to result in someone being confused and moving in any random direction. Or just stopping altogether. Or not doing anything at all. In fact, the response I experience most commonly when attempting to pass someone who’s occupying the entire sidewalk/path is for them to ignore me entirely, forcing me off the sidewalk and onto the road.

      2. “Passing” doesn’t say whether it’s left or right, and it warns them that you’re about to appear on some side. The problem with “On your left” is I instinctively interpret it as “Move left” and expect them to pass on the right but then they appear on the left. I never heard it as a kid; people either said nothing or rang their bell or said “Passing”. I first heard “On your left” in the 1990s or so and I thought it was a bad idea but it caught on in a big way.

      3. Agree, which is why I use a bell for peds but call “on your left” for bikes I’m passing.

    2. if I’m passing someone else, what I want most is not that they move one direction or the other, but that they’re predictable… that they continue in the same direction/heading they’re already on.

      And the purpose of the bell is to let them know that i’m heading their way, and that they shouldn’t, say, change directions across the path unexpectedly.

      Personally I find a bell most effective, as the sound carries farther without me having to yell.

      1. Right, the first several times I heard “On your left” I moved left and ended up halfway closer to them, which is the opposite of what they wanted. After several times I’ve forced myself not to do that and to remember they mean “I’m coming on the left”, but I still sometimes forget and move left, or I have to think for a moment whether they’re on the left or right. Because I understand “Left” immediately but it takes longer to figure out “Your left”. Whereas if they just say “Passing” I immediately understand it as “I’ll be close to you on one side in a second”, and it doesn’t really matter which side because it’s clear that I’m not passing and they are, and I can trust that if they can say the word then they can get around me safely if I keep going the way I am.

  2. I have mixed feelings about this. Generally I don’t have a problem with scooters and I’m looking forward to using them but I do think a lot of people are going to get hurt and someone is going to die. I know people will get injured regardless, whether they’re walking, biking, or driving, but I can’t help but feel these companies should bear a bigger responsibility for protecting their customers.

    1. Let’s be real here. The only way that a scooter rider is gonna die is if a car hits them.

      Let’s put the safety burden where it belongs.

  3. A scooter rider’s center of gravity is basically the same height as a pedestrian’s, so at jogging speeds, simple falls on a scooter are equivalent to a jogger tripping.

    Yeah, except that the scooter is capable of going much faster than jogging speed. Go down a hill without the breaks and it is like a skateboard — capable of speeds in excess of 30 MPH. Stopping a scooter going that fast is extremely difficult. It is much easier to handle a bike going down a steep hill.

    I honestly don’t know why a scooter rental would be more popular than a bike rental, other than the fact that it is easier to learn. Not everyone knows how to ride a bike, but a scooter looks pretty darn easy (just hop on and push). No one does that with a bike. You either know how to ride or you don’t. Furthermore, people who have used scooters as a kid, or have used skateboards are likely to give the electric skateboard a try. It all adds up to a lot of inexperienced riders. Most will do just fine, while others are likely to crash. As mentioned, 15 MPH is fast enough to do some damage (and that is simply running under electric power, not down a hill).

    I don’t know how to handle the helmet issue, but I agree about reducing the speed limit. The maximum assist should be 11 MPH (or better yet, an even 10). That is still much faster than walking speed, and solves the “last mile” problem just fine. These are not designed to ride for miles and miles. If you are going a short distance, the time savings from the faster speed are minimal. Safety First.

    1. Yeah, my distance jogging speed is around 7-8 mph. Top marathon runners can get over 12 mph. If I was capable of running at speeds nearing 15 mph, I would absolutely wear some form of head protection.

      While not directly comparable, I’ve gotten concussed in a bike accident where I was traveling less than 10 mph.

      The no helmet argument is plain silly.

      1. Interesting. I’ve never seen a runner (even a sub-6min mile marathoner) wearing a helmet. How many elite runners have suffered head injuries?

      2. Note that I didn’t say helmet, but rather head protection. Our bodies are somewhat adapted to fall from a standing position, so a helmet is obviously overkill, since chances of full impact to the head are low, compared to a bike or scooter. If I could maintain 15 mph while running, I would probably opt for a protective headband because I’m clumsy and tend to trip over nothing. Even an indirect impact while running at 15 mph could be dangerous and I value my brain too much to take a risk.

        A bike or scooter at 15 mph? You can bet I’m wearing a helmet.

    2. One thing I haven’t really seen in the scooter share vs. bike share debate is that riding a bike often takes some amount of planning – especially with clothing. Legally you need a helmet for a bike, and though I rarely see bike share riders with helmets I personally would be more comfortable with one. Beyond helmets, to ride a bike you also need appropriate clothes that are loose enough to make pedaling comfortable/possible but no so loose that things could get caught in chains, gears, or wheels. Some people may not be comfortable on a bike in a skirt or dress but may be fine on a scooter. Also not all types of footwear are good for bike riding. My heavy work boots aren’t very comfortable to pedal in, but I can stand on a scooter just fine. For spontaneous trips I would generally prefer a scooter.

  4. Is the author representing the position of any municipality/organization or representing the experiences and opinions of a private citizen? Not clear from “This is a guest post” and article’s context, e.g, The author is a resident of Seattle. or The author is the Director of Stuff at the Municipal Department of Things.

  5. I agree – lower max speed makes a lot of sense. When you’re standing upright with your feet stationary (that is, all of your weight on your feet), it is more difficult to put a foot down to stop right yourself if you lose control. When you’re on a bike, especially a bikeshare bike with a low seat, you can easily put your foot down while still having multiple points of contact with the bike (butt, other foot, and hands).

    I’m also on the fence about Seattle ever being a good place for these due to hills. Perhaps e-braking to keep riders at the maximum speed would solve this problem? That is, the motor would always be engaged and would actually slow down the rider once they approach top speed going down hill, making it more or less impossible to go faster than the top speed of 10 or 11 mph and lose control.

    1. Tacoma has lots of steep hills too, and the steepest ones are downtown, where there are the most scooters. The hills aren’t a big problem.

      That said, I agree with you that these things need much better brakes than they do. The brakes on these things are crap.

  6. “it is better to block scooter share from coming to Seattle at all than to include consistently-flouted regulations that beg for unequal”

    Also, let’s pass a law forcing riders to select a speed mode that will slow them down for safety concerns that border on paranoia.

  7. On the dual-speed suggestion, it’s nice in theory but most people aren’t going to pay attention to it and will just select fast mode and ride on the sidewalk anyways. Or they’ll ‘be in a hurry’ every single time. People love justifying things that benefit themselves in the short term.

  8. Regarding the 2 speed settings idea: perhaps the rider can take a photo of themself when they start their rental. AI would determine if they’re wearing a helmet. No helmet = lower speed. Alternatively, just ask the user, “are you wearing a helmet?” And then give them the option for high speed or low speed if they are.

  9. As an occasional rider in Tacoma, it’s pretty clear that no additional regulations are required. Dumping them in water bodies is something that vandals get tired of after a couple months, and is mostly not a problem for anyone but the scooter company anyway. And the safety stuff is classic concern trolling. Scooter riders may hurt themselves, but they don’t kill other people like car drivers do, but I don’t hear anyone calling to limit car speeds to 11 MPH.

    The editorial is essentially trying to find a middle ground between allowing a cheap and energy efficient form on transportation and GET OFF MY LAWN!

    1. It’s perfectly legitimate to ask ourselves these questions without being accused of ‘concern trolling’. There have been numerous cases of brakes failing, for that reason among others I don’t plan on using these on hills.

    2. It seems unlikely that scooters will kill people, but it is reasonably likely that we will see scooter vs. pedestrian crashes causing non-fatal but still serious injuries. Those can still be very painful, life altering in the short term, and extremely expensive even if you have insurance.

      The mixing of scooters and pedestrians (traveling at 1/4 of the speed) is fraught with challenges. Even though bikes are allowed on sidewalks, I prefer to ride in the street precisely because the speed difference is extremely challenging to navigate on a congested sidewalk with pedestrians, sandwich boards, trash cans, street trees, parked bikes, etc. Pedestrians can stop and change directions almost instantly; scooters and bikes cannot unless traveling very slowly.

    3. Bicycles on the sidewalk usually ride slow enough that they don’t alarm pedestrians. Or the reason they’re on the sidewalk is they’re going uphill so they’re slow anyway. Skateboards don’t go as slowly because you can’t slow down a skateboard so easily, especially going down a hill. Some cars weave around other cars like an accident waiting to happen. I’m not concerned about scooters going at pedestrian-friendly speeds. I’m afraid of them weaving around pedestrians like skateboarders only faster.

    4. “I’m not concerned about scooters going at pedestrian-friendly speeds.”

      Like Segways for instance. I’ve never seen a Segway go alarmingly fast. But I can easily see e-scooters doing it.

    5. But cars don’t ride on the sidewalk! No motorized movement on sidewalks, period (exception for wheelchairs). Pedestrians deserve a complete safe zone since they are always the most vulnerable in motion. It barely works with non-motorized bicycles, and even with that the pedestrians are badly out-gunned – see the Montlake Bridge at heavy commute times…mommies with playpens attached, speed demon commuters, the clueless…it feels like the Hunger Games if you’re on foot. I can only imagine the hell that e-scooters will bring.

    6. Are you sure this is all just concern trolling?


      bike/scooter collision:

      Not saying that we shouldn’t have them, but to dismiss everyone who has questions and concerns as a “concern troll” is a dismissive and not accurate.

  10. > Compromise solutions could accomplish the safety goals, as well; for example, there is no reason that there can’t be multiple speed settings and different rules for each. One can imagine a situation where the scooters have two settings (manually chosen through the phone app at time of hire):

    Friend. If you believe this will accomplish anything other than everyone selecting “Fast”, I have some oceanside property in Kansas. Yes, Kansas. It’s a miracle of nature.

    These regulation suggestions are bollux: the only regulation enforcement needed is the *existing* “Reckless driving”, with police enforcement of same.

    If you want to add regulations with speed governors, I suggest working to require all cars driven within the City of Seattle and not on the freeway to be GPS-governed down to 30 miles per hour. That’d improve safety far more.

    1. And if you believe we’ll have “police enforcement of same”, I have a five-bedroom apartment in downtown Seattle for $500/month to rent you. There will be no enforcement, or ridiculously selective enforcement, just we get of the helmet law and as we get of the bus only lanes.

  11. Limiting speeds may be appropriate. But, in practice, it would have to be automatic, rather than relying on the user to flick a switch. The trigger for reduced speeds could come from GPS, as is done already on the Santa Monica beach, but assuming GPS isn’t precise enough to distinguish between the sidewalk and the bike lane, the only way to enforce reduce speeds on the sidewalk is to enforce reduced speeds always.

    It should also be noted that when scooters are rented by the minute, any reduction in speed becomes effectively a price increase. For short hops across downtown, where travel time is dominated by stoplights, this distinction doesn’t matter much, but for those that want to cruise longer distances on the Burke-Gilman, it can matter a lot. For example, UW Link Station to Fremont is about 3 miles. At Lime’s current rates of $1/unlock+$0.15/minute, that translates to $2.80 at 15 mph or $3.70 at 10 mph. That’s a pretty big difference.

    Another point worth mentioning is that regardless of how the assisted speeds are governed, it is impossible to stop people from attaining dangerous speeds when bombing down a hill. Downtown Seattle has lots of steep hills, and it is easy to imagine someone getting out of control, maybe even plowing through a red light because they can’t stop quickly enough.

    My recommendations:
    1) Flat scooter speed limit governed to 10 mph, city-wide
    2) Helmets optional
    3) Scooters must emit an audible warning when traveling at or above 15 mph (possible only when traveling down a hill)
    4) The fleet of scooters may compose no more than half of the total fleet, with e-bikes still remaining for the other half (with 15 mph governed speed, just as done today).

    I put 4) for multiple reasons:
    – I don’t want bikeshare completely abandoning the 3-5 mile trip. Making such a trip on a 10 mph-governed scooter would be uncomfortable (lots of standing) and very expensive.
    – I don’t want the city to end up with no micro-mobility options at all, should the scooter pilot fail and there’s no bikes left as fallback

    1. I agree with all of those suggestions, especially the first one. That is much simpler than the author’s suggestion (having two speeds, one for sidewalk and one for the street).

    2. What is the normal distance limit for a scooter ride? asdf used to ride a push scooter from 55th to Montlake freeway station, and that would seem like the upper limit to me. I can’t imagine many people would ride them from UW to Fremont, or would they?

      1. I road one from the Narrows Bridge area to Tacoma Mall, a distance of about 5 miles. Not a lot of very steep hills for that trip, but certainly a lot of horrible pavement and sidewalks. It did the job just fine.

      2. If you own one, the main advantage of a scooter is that it is very portable. You can easily put in your trunk, and while the electric ones are a bit heavier, they are certainly easier to deal with than a folding bike if you are trying to get on a bus. I have no problem with higher limits on those devices. Their aren’t likely to be that many of them, and the riders would tend to be more experienced, and more likely to stick to the streets.

        I have trouble with throwing a bunch of high speed electric scooters out in a big city, and just hoping that people use them responsibly. Anecdotal evidence suggests they won’t. It makes sense to have the scooters be designed for short trips, while people still have the option of using bike share for longer trips. As it is, most bike share/scooter share trips are short by their very nature.

    3. I agree that we need to preserve bikeshares. The cult idea that scooters can replace bikes without losing anything is as ridiculous as the idea that careshares can replace transit, and the cities that have done that have reduced their citizens’ mobility options and excluded the poor. Scooters may be superior to bikes in last-mile trips downtown and around urban village stations, but bikes are superior for 3-5 mile crosstown trips that are also important. If we think there’s not enough transit in Rainier Valley, the Central District, northeast Seattle, etc, especially for trips perpendicular to the bus routes Pine & Bellevue to Swedish Cherry Hill, UW to Madison Valley, Maple Leaf to Greenwood, then we need bikes not scooters for those.

      1. I dispute that, since every company that has done this has offered bikes and scooters for the same price, and found that hardly anyone uses the bikes. That’s why Lime in Tacoma has abandoned the bikes entirely.

        If the bikes served some need, people would actually use them.

      2. If I’m traveling 3 miles and my scooter has enough juice to make it, why would I pedal a bike 3 miles?

        If it’s a cargo bike, sure. But if the goal is to simply transport a person, I think most people would prefer a scooter regardless of the distance. People want to travel with the least effort & travel time.

      3. Then why do I see bikeshare bikes in front of Magnuson Park and at residential bus stops in north Seattle and pretty much every obscure distant place you can imagine? Are scooters really doing this in Tacoma and the other cities that have them? Or is a dropoff in bike use corresponding to a contraction if the usage area?

      4. You see bikeshare bikes there because scooters aren’t allowed here, obviously.

        In the absence of frequent transit and faced with the choice between walking, jogging, and riding a bikeshare bike, people pressed for time would choose the bike. Hence why you see them at far flung locales.

        Adding scooters (that go as fast or nearly as fast as bikes) provides you a fast option that doesn’t get you as sweaty. That’s an attractive proposition for a lot of people.

      5. Having to stand for 30 minutes straight can get uncomfortable. You also can’t ride a scooter safely as fast as you can a bike, so, in a scooter, the trip will take longer. With pay by minute rentals, time is money, so being forced to take a 10 mph scooter instead of a 15 mph bike amounts to a 33% price increase.

        The ebikes are easy to pedal. Their batteries last longer. And you’re sitting. That’s why it’s still worth keeping them.

        For short trips, none of my above objections really matter all that much, so maybe scooters work better for them. That’s fine. We can have both.

        Another reason for not abandoning bike share is, if we do decide that scooters aren’t working, I want the bikes available to fall back to. I don’t want Seattle to just be left with nothing for months or years until the city puts together the framework for another pilot, as has happened in Portland and many other cities.

      6. You’re not answering the question. In cities that have scooters, are they showing up all over the city and beyond, including residential areas that aren’t particularly close to urban villages? If you mapped their scooter scattering extent to Seattle, where would they be and not be?

      7. You seem to be questioning a point that no one has made.

        AJ and Donde said, here are some reasons why we’d prefer to use a scooter for most trips, which reflect the wider trend of bikeshare being replaced by scooter share.

        You asked, as if it were some kind of gotcha, “then why do I see bikes at X, Y, and Z?” Turns out, if you ban rental scooters and allow rental bikes, you won’t see rental scooters anywhere. Totally pointless question. You’d probably see scooters there if they were allowed.

        If I were in some remote neighborhood and trying to get to the nearest bus stop 1-2 miles away, scooting or biking would both be fine. Very few people are taking bikeshare trips of a length that would be uncomfortable on a scooter. The biggest benefit to keeping the bikes is that they have a basket, imo.

  12. I have a feeling that scooters will eventually be equipped with cameras and “black boxes” that keep a few minutes worth of data and video to address the liability issues and monitor terms of service violations. This may not improve safety much, but it could influence behavior with some users.

    I suppose the cameras could be disabled by covering them with tape but then the scooter could mark itself as needing maintenance.

  13. Did you see the news story last night? A scooter plowed into a building near Canlis killing the driver and critically injuring two cooks who were standing in the storage area (not wearing helmets so mostly their fault!!)

    Oh wait… that was a car… like always.

    Sure, let’s limit scooter speed limits. Right after we limit the car speed limits. Seems a bit silly to do it the other way around, doesn’t it?

    1. We do limit car speeds, but a majority of drivers choose to ignore speed limits, to the detriments of others as you’ve shown.

      What makes you think that e-scooter renters will obey any speed limits on pedestrian facilities? Illegal e-thing riders today don’t show any semblance of speed control on sidewalks.

    2. Again, cars are not driving around on sidewalks where pedestrians are. Very rarely a drunk driver gets onto the sidewalk and crashes into a building or light pole. And they cross sidewalks to get into driveways, always at slow speed. Scooters are riding along the sidewalk all day every day, so an overspeed scooter is a new potential harm that none of your “cap all car speeds at 25 mph” addresses. A speeding car in its lane is not a danger to pedestrians on the sidewalk in the way a speeding scooter passing inches from said pedestrians in their lane is.

      1. Cars emerge from driveways at slow speeds? Maybe most of the time, but it only takes one to kill you. I use extreme caution in suburban strip malls, because cars will often fly out at 10-15mph to shoot into a gap in traffic. Many also turn in at high speed as they are quickly slowing from the 45+mph arterial speeds.

    3. No one is suggesting a speed limit on scooters. You can go out and buy an electric scooter, and use it (according to the current limits). But introducing thousands of scooters on public space, and then basically saying “go for it” leads to all sorts of problems. For example, will they be legal on the sidewalk? If not, then things are simple. Go as fast as you want. But that greatly limits the value of the scooters, while making it riskier for scooter users. If you do allow scooters on the sidewalk, then you run the risk of high speed encounters with pedestrians. Not as high as with a car, but this is a new risk, that doesn’t need to be introduced. It makes way more sense to just reduce the electric assist on the things. 10 MPH is still much faster than walking, which is what they are for. At that speed you can allow them on sidewalks. If you want to go faster, use a bike.

  14. This is a terrible solution that exists only to solve the problem of: “I need to get from point A to point B. I don’t feel like walking, biking or busing and want to get there as quickly as possible without any regard for the safety of others.” There’s arguments of “green transportation alternates”, but they fall apart pretty quickly when you consider all the options available to people in Seattle today.

    We’ve already been seeing an unofficial pilot program in the form of selfish people illegally using e-things on sidewalks and bicycle infrastructure over the past two years. It hasn’t been pretty, yet a small, vocal group of people (investors?) want to increase that number by orders of magnitude. At least the illegal users today own their scooters, so there’s some semblance of responsibility, however minuscule. Don’t except that with your typical rent-by-the-minute rider, which is apparent by traveling to a City where e-xcooter rentals currently exist.

    If there truly is a desire to enable selfish, lazy people, then have a pilot program, but ban e-scooters from sidewalks, trails, bike lanes, etc. Restrict them to the streets where they can only hurt themselves. See how that works before unleashing them on vulnerable pedestrians.

    Durkan has a record of cancelling projects that would actually benefit our City, so some coordinated letter writing could shut this dumpster fire of an idea down before it even gets lit.

    1. Your quote at the beginning of your post perfectly describes personal motor vehicle use.

      1. I thought about that while typing it out, but wanted to avoid comparing cars to e-scooters, because cars do have legitimate functions beyond getting from point A to point B as quickly and lazily as possible.

      2. Yet that is how they are used most of the time. A scooter will do the same thing while emitting a small fraction of the GHG. If you need to haul large or heavy items, then a car is a good choice.

    2. I’m also skeptical of scooters like I am about Segways. It seems like lazy people’s way to avoid walking, and we shouldn’t be reconfiguring our cities around their convenience. Bikes can be used like this too but bikes also serve trips beyond walking distance — a 45-60 minute walk every day is not a reasonable expectation for 21st-century Americans. We should make it easy to walk 0.25-1.0 mile, easy to bike or bus 0.5-10 miles, and easy to express-bus 5+ miles. Substitute train for bus where appropriate.

      1. Literally who is arguing for a “reconfiguration” of the city? I don’t see what the problem is with letting scooters into bike lanes. Sure, there’s the problem where there aren’t bike lanes everywhere, but I see no reason not to treat them identically to bikes.

        FWIW, having a monthly pass and living on a frequent bus route is a great way for lazy people to avoid walking. From 65th to the library on 50th or Trader Joe’s on 47th you bet I’m riding the bus. (Although northbound reliability on the 67 is terrible and I wind up walking the whole way home most of the time).

    3. Makes sense to ban them from sidewalks, but not sure why you think it makes sense to ban them from bike lanes and trails. They don’t go much faster than a moderately athletic cyclist.

      1. The question on bike trails is whether they go significantly slower so the trail doesn’t work well for bicycles any more. If it’s a couple scooters a mile it doesn’t matter, but if you’re having to slow down around crowd of them every minute then you’ve effectively destroyed the bike trail for bikes. I’ve been told they’re not slower than bikes so maybe they can coexist happily, but we should at least make sure.

      2. Dude, they’re speed-governed to 15 mph in most places where they exist. They’ll probably be governed to 10-15 mph here. It’s not as if Seattle is the first place to try them.

        And if they wind up being speed-governed to jogging speeds of 6 mph for some reason, then the problem you mentioned arises, but by your logic we should also ban walkers and joggers from the Burke-Gilman.

      3. Pedestrians share the sidewalk with bicycles who choose to use the pedestrian lane. Bicycles can share the bike lane with scooters. We can all get there safely if we work together!

      4. When I choose to take my bike on the “pedestrian lane,” I’m not doing it to be a dick. I don’t think anyone else is either. It’s only in cases where 1) there’s no bike lane and 2) the road in question is a high-speed, high volume road where I don’t feel safe taking the lane and 3) there’s no reasonable parallel route. Most of the time these roads are in suburban areas so there aren’t any pedestrians anyway. Can you imagine the kind of madman you’d have to be to try to take the lane on 164th SW in Lynnwood over I-5?

        The answer to bike-pedestrian and future scooter-pedestrian conflicts is to build out safe infrastructure.

      5. Makes sense to ban them from sidewalks, but not sure why you think it makes sense to ban them from bike lanes and trails. They don’t go much faster than a moderately athletic cyclist.

        Two reasons, one that’s impossible to overcome and one that’s unlikely to be overcome:

        1. As a commuter cyclist, my maximum speed is 15 mph, on a flat, straightaway trail with no obstacles or crossings. If I need to stop quickly, I can do so within a short distance without flying off my bike, less than 10 ft at speed based on first hand experience. A 10-15 mph scooter cannot do that and so has to choose to either dangerously swerve or attempt to stop, resulting in a collision and/or flying over the handlebars. Most scooter riders appear to attempt to swerve.

        2. Bicycles can and do vary their speed when there is congestion on trails. There are definitely exceptions to the rule, but in my experience, cyclists tend to play nice when faced with congestion. My observations with scooter riders on trails is that they tend to be either stopped or full throttle and do not slow in congestion (similar behavior to e-bike riders as well). This behavior can only be changed with significant enforcement, which is not likely to happen.

        We should not accept e-scooters based on theoretical behavior that does not match observed behavior. To do so is folly.

      6. I think riders should be careful about stereotyping e-bike users. I use both a regular bike and an e-bike, depending, and I am a natural ally of anyone interested in low impact transportation beyond walking. Like most of our transportation, enforcement is very spotty (non-existent), so passing draconian rules intended to prevent me from using my battery powered machine where exclusively human power machines go will simply not work. I and others will become scofflaws (more so than now), and it will be a mess, as it is now at most any red light where the high spandex crowd will regularly run a red light.

        Don’t vilify e-bikes or e-scooters, they are part of the solution to easing us away from ICE personal transportation.

        FWIW, I usually slow to trail a non-e-bike-rider, there’s no race, I’ve got time, and passing is usually just unnecessary, even if trivial.

      7. I also own an e-bike and regularly ride it to Seattle across Lake Washington. I also own a pedal bike, but given the distance, I prefer the e-bike, since it shaves about 30 minutes off the one-way travel time.

        But, when I come off the 520 bridge, I then need to go over the Montlake Bridge to get where I’m going. It does not feel safe to ride on the metal grating with tons of cars, so the sidewalk is the only option. To ban e-bikes from the sidewalk, would amount to effectively banning e-bikes from crossing the ship canal (except for the Eastlake crossing, which is the only one that has a bike lane separate from the sidewalk). Similarly, it is also necessary to ride my e-bike on the sidewalk for short distances to access local businesses on busy streets. As always, I go slow. There’s one particular stretch of sidewalk I navigate regularly, where I slow down to 5 mph, due to limted sightlines (I actually turn the motor off for that stretch, so the e-bike becomes effectively a slow and heavy pedal bike).

        Banning e-bikes from bike trails would be even worse. If that were done, simple trips like U-Village to U-district would require putting your life in your hands, and crossing Lake Washington would become virtually impossible. I bought my e-bike specifically for trips across the lake; if I couldn’t cross the lake in it, that bike would become nearly useless.

      8. Like most of our transportation, enforcement is very spotty (non-existent), so passing draconian rules intended to prevent me from using my battery powered machine where exclusively human power machines go will simply not work.

        Seattle tried to find a happy medium where 15 MPH max e-bikes were allowed on a handful of trails. Instead, we got 20+ MPH cargo bikes and 30 MPH fat bikes on all trails. It’s unfortunate that the 15 MPH e-bike users are getting swept up with the selfish, dangerous 20+ mph e-biker, but those are the ones that people see.

        Banning e-bikes from bike trails would be even worse. If that were done, simple trips like U-Village to U-district would require putting your life in your hands, and crossing Lake Washington would become virtually impossible. I bought my e-bike specifically for trips across the lake; if I couldn’t cross the lake in it, that bike would become nearly useless.

        So you bought a mode of transportation that is basically illegal to use and you’re lamenting that if they maintain or enforce existing laws that mode of transportation would be useless?

        Also, I’m not following your logic how maintaining e-bike bans on trails would make getting from U-Village to U-District dangerous. People have done it safely on bikes since forever. Just because you insist on forgoing other’s safety to get from point A to point B quicker doesn’t mean society needs to comply. City trails were made for humans and human powered devices, not motorized vehicles. I’ve got no problem with you sticking to the roads though.

      9. “I’m not following your logic how maintaining e-bike bans on trails would make getting from U-Village to U-District dangerous. People have done it safely on bikes since forever”

        Um, no. The old 520 bridge had no sidewalks and it was illegal to bike or walk on it. Some people did walk across it at night because there’s no other way to cross the lake in that area without a car, but it was illegal and extremely dangerous. On a bike you had to detour to I-90 or around the north end of the lake. I lived at 56th & U-Way and when i tried to bike to Bellevue once around the north end it took an hour just to get to north Kirkland, and when I went south to Rainier Valley via Montlake and the 26th greenway it took an hour just to get to Mercer Street. So there was no effective way to get from north Seattle to the central Eastside on a bike without an hours-long detour. For a while Metro buses were free between Montlake and Evergreen Point, but that doesn’t help when no bus is running and they were hourly, and nobody seems to remember that policy or think it’s still in effect.

      10. Mike, I’m not sure what crossing Lake Washington has to do with getting from U-Village to the U District….

      11. Oh, you’re one of *those* guys who thinks people on e-bikes are “cheating” or whatever, and gets a little heated every time you get passed on the BGT.

        Those “dangerous” (how many people have they killed, exactly?) and “selfish” (that’s just your opinion, man) e-bike riders are just choosing a mode that works for their commute. E-bikes make it possible for people other than Lance Armstrong wannabes to bike in this hilly city. If you’d rather them just not bike, seems like you’re the selfish one here. Just make like slower bikers and joggers and keep right when being passed, easy. I can point to plenty of folks like you who endanger walkers and joggers on trails, but you don’t see me calling for you to be banned.

    1. When cars are allowed on the sidewalk, you can start lobbying. It’s already illegal if they’re on the sidewalk.

      You keep mentioning cars kill people too – thank god because we had all forgotten that fact. As transit users, bicyclists and pedestrians here on this blog, obviously we are only concerned about cars.

      1. I am all of those things. Where I differ from many of you is that I think we should focus all of our effort on the biggest threat. I’m threatened by cars every day when I walk. I have never felt threatened by a scooter rider or a cyclist in Portland.

      2. I’ve only encountered them in Austin, but I was very threatened by them while walking on the sidewalk at night.

  15. I’m fine with e-scooters if they’re only allowed on the street. Pedestrians are the most vulnerable in-motion group, by a wide margin, so putting un-trained yahoos going 15mph on the same path seems crazy. Some commenters are crying “but what about the killer cars!!!”…yes, cars suck, but they are not (generally) riding down the same narrow vector as my fragile sack of flesh. It’s an unnecessary (and unfair) burden to make pedestrians be on red alert every friggin’ moment.

    1. If we’re going to seriously support scooters we need an intermediate-speed lane between the street and sidewalk. Bike lanes are intermediate-speed, and if bikes and scooters can coexist happily without a lot of scooters slowing the bikes down a lot then that would avoid the need for four levels of lane. We wanted to build a comprehensive bike-lane network anyway so, let’s get to it? Durkan can stop thinking about just allowing scooters and get serious about accelerating the bike network. And converting GP/parking lanes needs to be part of the consideration. We shouldn’t start with “No reducing car lanes, especially if nimbys complain.” We need a minimum level of service for our bikes and buses, not just whatever’s left over after car throughput and street parking are guaranteed.

  16. I have *never* seen a share bike rider wear a helmet. Never. OTOH I’ve seen motorized unicycles (whatever they’re called) with helmets. I’ve even seen skateboarders wear helmets.

    1. Then you’ve never seen me on a bike share, since I was one of Pronto’s top users and use Lime all the time and have never once ridden without one. Your anecdata is nothing to mine, isn’t it?

  17. I may have missed this, but in Portland many of those I see riding scooters do so on streets that are dedicated bike corridor streets, which helps prevent a number of issues. These are lightly traveled through streets with obstacles to keep autos from using them as residential freeways but allow bikes through. Seattle doesn’t have too many of this type of street.

  18. If the city of Seattle is willing to offer (effectively) free taxi rides to and from the Rainier Valley Link Station, perhaps the city should do something similar for bikeshare – or scooter share. It seems ridiculous for someone to choose Via over a bike/scooter, because the $13 for the taxi ride is being picked up by the city, while the $3 bikeshare fare must be paid out of pocket.

    Bikes and scooters feel like a much more fiscally sustainable Link access solution than subsidized taxis.

  19. Scooters should not be on sidewalks. Period. Our sidewalks (what we have of them) are a necessary and valuable resource for humans walking and using mobility aids like wheelchairs and walkers. We have no other place or space – we can’t be in the road. I have already had numerous close calls with (privately-owned) scooter riders on sidewalks in SLU, where people are zipping down crowded sidewalks with no regard for anyone else.

    The city needs to deal with the fact that human beings frequently operate in a manner that is self-interested and convenient for themselves at that moment. That means scooter riders, unless banned and enforced, will be careening down our sidewalks startling, frustrating, angering, and endangering those of us who walk or use mobility aids.

    No amount of signage or unenforced rules or wishing that people would act as they are “supposed” to will mitigate this – just look at speed zones on streets and bike trails that are routinely ignored by both vehicle and bicycle operators (case in point – the new Arboretum loop trail, posted 10 MPH for bikes with signs all over mandating pedestrian right of way – all ignored by speeding cyclists).

    The city needs to think about those who are going to use these scooters – mostly young, obviously able-bodied, and willing to assume risk to themselves – and those who are not. And since those of us who are not using the scooters have no other option for walking besides sidewalks, the city needs to prioritize and protect that space for us.

Comments are closed.