Ethan Bergerson, SDOT blog:

After careful review, we selected three scooter companies to receive operation permits for 2022–2023: LimeLINK (by Superpedestrian), and Bird. In addition to scooters, riders continue to have the option of renting shared bicycles from Lime and Veo.

In addition to welcoming back Lime and LINK (by Superpedestrian), we are excited to welcome Bird. Bird operates in over 400 cities and has a demonstrated commitment to safety and sustainability. They will bring their newest third generation of scooters to Seattle, which offers a safer ride and longer battery life than their earlier models.

It wasn’t that long ago that bike share seemed to be on the way out in favor of scooters.

15 Replies to “SDOT shuffles the scooter & bike share mix”

  1. per Duncan, I asked a man about to rent a scooter on South Jackson Street last week, and he said her preferred bikes as well. My very small second hand sample. I have not used the products and will not.

    They may be popular among some, but I doubt they are worth the injuries and clutter and blockages on our sidewalks, curb ramps, and bus stops. We should be more empathetic toward those using our pedestrian ways. I have seen many scooters being used in risky ways or blocking pathways. Where is vision zero? What is a blind pedestrian to do; or someone in a wheelchair? Some agencies and firms use geo fencing to force disciplined parking of the dock-less devices; but then, they become de facto docks.

    1. My understanding is that the scooters are much cheaper to operate. they can be easily repositioned with vans and trucks more easily.

    2. The key here is infrastructure.

      My hope is that scooters will bolster the call for safe, separated (from cars and peds) infrastructure for all 2- wheeled conveyances. True complete routes, not a vanishing lane here or there.

      I prefer the e-bikes first, then the scooters with seats. More stable and easy to control than razor style scooters. They are also really, really fun. Getting the last mile is just a bonus.

      They also provide a solution at least the perceived problem of bike racks on buses failing to scale.

      1. On Mercer Island anyway the bicyclists complained pretty loudly about “scooters” (e-scooters and non-e-scooters) on the bike trails during the parks and recreation plan adoption.

        Just like E-bikes, adding scooters to the trail (especially a mixed-use trail with pedestrians) adds more users at different speeds, and at least according to the bike groups scooter users don’t really follow the rules of the road because they are mostly used for fun, not transportation, and slow the speed of bicyclists. Pedestrians on sidewalks are not so keen on these scooters as well.

        As a driver, seeing someone on a scooter in a dedicated bike lane along a road is unnerving because they look unstable, go slower than bikes which tend to go the same speed as cars on regular roads if flat or downhill, and tend to swerve a lot, maybe because of the small wheel diameter. Maybe Seattle will be different. I don’t know if e-scooters will make up a fraction of first/last mile access for transit, considering e-bikes have not, although I guess the point is if you own the scooter it is easier to take on transit.. The data so far show most of the shared e-bikes are used for recreation. From what I can read on the internet the majority of users are young, male, and often students.

        The injuries from scooters are something to consider as well since the most common are head and face injuries, which are more serious for those not wearing a proper helmet.

        They look fun, and I would like to try one (with a helmet and probably clothing to prevent road rash which can be like third degree burns) but not in an urban area.

  2. The scooter/bike/car/”other” short-term rental dashboard is actually quite good:

    Lots of interesting observations to be made with the data.

    In the SDOT blog, I noticed this point:

    Improve batteries: The companies use batteries that last longer and can be quickly swapped out on the street. This means that customers will have an easier time finding a fully-charged scooter when they need it and makes the program more sustainable because scooters won’t need to be transported back to their base to be recharged as often.

    I appreciate SDOT addressing the problem of scooters and bikes requiring significant transportation to charging bases and redeployment overnight.

  3. Is it safe to say that we have one the worst bike share systems for a city our size? I’m asking in all honestly, because I’m no expert. Has anyone done a review of various systems? I can find them, but they tend to list the best systems (we aren’t on there) or they are a bit out of date.

    What is clear is that our system(s) are very expensive compared to other cities (Portland, Vancouver, Minneapolis, Boston, etc.). I can’t imagine that they are somehow better. We have dockless systems now, which is great for dropping off a bike, but not great for picking one up. It also causes other problems, which lead to the city regulating how many you can add. Plenty of big cities have docks every couple blocks (with dozens of bikes neatly organized at the station) but if dozens of bikes are laying around the street it would be chaos. In doing a not-very-thorough look at bike share systems in North America, it appears that only San Fransisco has a system as bad as ours.

    The two things we have in common is how they are run. From what I can tell, every really good bike share system is run by the government, or a non-profit. They contract out some of the work, and typically have some corporate sponsors (e. g. Biketown, sponsored by Nike) but a public (or non-profit) owns the thing. The idea that for-profit companies will come in, and provide a good system for very little money seems naive. Once a company is given access, they either grab a bunch of data and leave, or jack up the prices. It would be difficult to have real competition, in the same way that you don’t have a dozen different private companies providing electricity to the same street. The decision to go the way we have seems to be a giant cop-out, or a naive belief in the free market, or worse yet, gadgetry.

    I think there is a common theme for the dysfunctional public transportation system in Seattle. We tend to over commit to one approach (e. g. light rail) and think it will solve all of our problems. As a result, we don’t put enough money into other things (like buses) that still end up doing most of the work. The keys to successful bike share aren’t that complicated (NACTO has written several guides). But it seems like we naively ignore what other cities have done, and launch plans as if this is something special, and unique. First it was Pronto, which was a good start, but obviously was going to need to be expanded (both in terms of coverage as well as station density). Then we experimented with several dockless systems that are more appropriate for smaller, low density areas (e. g. Victoria BC). Then we moved away from bikes, believing scooters were the future (ignoring the obvious differences in terms of safety). Now we seem to have a mess, sometimes literally. Prices remain really high, and they clog up the sidewalk.

    1. Seattle doesn’t subsidize the various scooter/bike/scooter-bike companies that operate in the city, whereas other municipalities all have some sort of subsidized network (with your noted exception of San Francisco, as far as I’m aware). This leads to a bit more chaos, but costs the city very little.

      I am ambivalent about scooter/bike share, because in my walking experience, they’re no more impactful to city sidewalks than poorly parked cars. The city could easily establish more corrals for scooters and bikes, which would largely solve the “problem” of sidewalk clutter, but the city is too timid to replace street parking spaces that earn a whopping maximum of $5/hour.

      Sure, scooters can be hazardous for unfamiliar or inebriated users but that’s a sort of user hazard that that’s largely limited to moderate injuries (broken arms/faces), and almost exclusively fatal when a car is involved. When people start frequently dying in crashes of their own fault like drivers (rather than being run over by said drivers), then maybe it will be an issue worth reconsidering. Currently, I think the city is doing well at regulating the various providers. It’s only been a year or so of scooters, and a few years of floating bike share. Two of those years have been a pandemic.

      1. Seattle doesn’t subsidize the various scooter/bike/scooter-bike companies that operate in the city … this leads to a bit more chaos, but costs the city very little.

        Except for the fact that we have crap. That’s the problem. Bike share is extremely expensive, and rarely used. In other cities, bike share is an integral part of their overall transit system. They go together, like trains and buses. It makes sense for the public to subsidize them in this manner, as it provides great public benefit. But in Seattle, we just assumed that the market would provide. Thankfully, we didn’t do that with other forms of transit. Could you imagine if they did that with buses? Fares would be much higher, and focus mainly on the busiest routes, leaving huge numbers of people with nothing, which in turn would lead to a really poor system, even for the people willing to pay the high prices. In short, crap.

      2. Sure, scooters can be hazardous for unfamiliar or inebriated users

        The problem is that scooters are fundamentally more difficult to control. It doesn’t matter if you are expert or not. It has to do with your center of gravity, as well as the breaking and turning mechanism.

        But that is not the main issue I’m raising. It is the naive belief that the fundamental problem with bike share in this city will be fixed by simply switching to a new gadget (a scooter!). The problem with bike share in this city has never been the bikes themselves, it is how they have been operated. We ignored what every other city did, and we ignored the advice from experts like NACTO. We then though the market would magically provide affordable bike share. It didn’t, so then we though it would happen with scooter share. It didn’t, and now we just live with crap.

      3. All fair points, Ross. I’d like to see the city build out the basic infrastructure required to support a robust “micro-mobility” system like bike/scoot-share (bike lanes, corrals), since that also serves folks who use their bikes and scooters to get around. I’d say the city should put money towards subsidizing bikes/scooters after it’s run out of good places to spend money improving the paths and places those vehicles would operate. In the meantime, let the Saturday-afternoon bar hoppers zoom around.

  4. Bike/scooter share is little more than useless urban litter. Best get rid of them completely, and free up space for the public to use.

  5. SDOT needs to step quit thinking so hard about creating a new micro-mobility lifestyle and think more about maintaining what they already have as their daily responsibility.

    Tree roots and lack of surface management are ruining both sidewalks and streets here in Seattle. More scooters or bikes on demand won’t help things if every time someone gets on them, they get injured from a pothole, sunken pavement exposing manhole covers, or crumbling or uneven sidewalks. Plus SDOT appears to be quickly losing ground on fixing faded striping or malfunctioning signal sensors. It’s akin to going out shopping for more things rather than fixing up one’s messy leaking house.

    When your home is falling apart, you need to hire housekeepers and repair professionals, and not architects and dreamers to come up with risky new ideas.

    1. I’ll add that poor street maintenance endangers pedestrians and bicyclists more easily than it does cars. A car can easily drive over uneven pavement, while a pedestrian or bicyclist can more easily take a spill because of it.

      Last weekend, I tripped over an uneven manhole cover and sustained several cuts and bruises to my face, arm and knee. I looked like a boxer after a fight, complete with a bloody nose and swollen lip.

      This was at 10th and Thomas right in the middle of the intersection. That’s less than a two block walk from the Capitol Hill light rail station.

    2. This is spot on.

      As a pedestrian, I hate the scooters and clutter so much. If they’re not in the way or tripping you up, then their users are flying by you on the sidewalk.

      It’d be kind to call this all sizzle and no steak. It’s all sizzle and just a gross pile of grease behind it.

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