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2020: Seattle’s summer of the scooter

This could be you (Image: Bird)

By next summer, electric scooters are primed to join Seattle’s growing fleet of privately-provided mobility options.

The Seattle Department of Transportation has announced the start of a year-long rollout process that includes three phases of outreach, City Hall wrangling over rules and permitting, and, then, eventually rollout in mid-2020.

“(A)t Mayor Durkan’s direction, we plan to draw lessons from other cities’ micro–mobility (a term for new, small, and electric transportation modes) programs and hear from community stakeholders before allowing scooter share in the City,” the SDOT announcement reads.

Before implementation, City Hall must address issues that have emerged with other scooter shares including rider safety and sidewalk safety issues.

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“We intend to co-create a scooter share pilot that offers new mobility options while maintaining sidewalk comfort & the safety of pedestrians, people who are blind or low-vision, & people living with disabilities,” the SDOT announcement reads.

Advocates say there also should be concerns about how the companies behind the shares — many of them also in the car and bike share business — manage the mix of options available. Scooters, for example, are easier and cheaper for the companies to deploy but encourage shorter, higher cost per minute trips from customers.

Last summer, Seattle rolled out a plan for expanding its bike share permitting in the city that included new safety restrictions and requirements about how the share bikes should be parked when not in use.

Like the privately run bike share fleet, Seattle’s scooter fleet will likely be dockless. The typical service like Bird or Lime charges an unlocking fee — $1 — and then a per minute fee of around 15 to 25 cents. The companies have been experimenting with pricing and promotions in cities around the country. Analysis has shown the industry is currently burning through hardware with the typical scooter lasting around a month before it needs to be replaced. Most companies in the industry are losing money on every ride as they play the long game of winning market share. The industry also brings local opportunities. Packs of “juicers” roam cities looking to pick up scooters running on empty to receive a small fee for recharging them.

The scooters can reach speeds of around 15 MPH and, fully charged, could carry a rider around 20 miles. Analysts say the average length of a trip is around 1.5 miles.

There are some big questions to answer regarding how scooters will fit in Seattle.

“We’re exploring whether scooter riding should be allowed on sidewalks, in bike lanes, or general travel lanes,” SDOT’s announcement reads. “We know that enforcement disproportionately impacts communities of color, so we want to find a solution that works for all Seattleites.”

The city’s first phase of outreach will begin with “conversations with the Pedestrian Advisory Board, Transit Advisory Board, and Bike Advisory Board, as well as organizations focused on disability rights and transportation equity, Center City community groups, neighborhood groups, and community groups representing a high proportion of people of color.”

You can learn more here:

Next steps to create a community-driven Scooter Share Program for Seattle.


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11 thoughts on “2020: Seattle’s summer of the scooter

  1. Like everything it seems in Seattle the program will be studied to death before implemented and then completely turned on its head after implementation leads to new conclusions.

    The scooters will function mostly like the bike shares except from what I can tell the scooters will take up less space and will be used more by tourists in the downtown and Queen Anne area and will be better than walking, bilking or ride sharing for getting around in that area of town, which is relatively flat and has wide sidewalks.

    The scooters should absolutely be allowed on sidewalks and bike lanes, just as you know, bikes are, travelling similar speeds.

    I can see issues around the waterfront where they’d interfere with pedestrians and like San Diego perhaps there should be “no go” zones were the scooters can’t be docked and used.

    One thing I keep hearing is that the scooters won’t be able to do the hills well and I can say from experience that now they won’t, but you can assist them greatly by pushing like a regular scooter as you travel, including up hills. In this way they like the bikes, a little old fashioned human power will help the batteries. I’d expect the battery tech to improve greatly in the next 5 years as well.

    Overall I think the scooters will benefit Seattle, mostly tourists, but also residents. It’s annoying that it’s taking so long to roll out the pilot when there are plenty of other cities to study that have had scooters and already dealt with their issues.

  2. These things as well as the bike shares are a total nightmare for handicapped people in this city. Especially for blind pedestrians. They are hard enough for a completely able bodied person like me to navigate, especially when they are bunched up at bus stops and make it nearly impossible to exit the rear door of the bus. And they are just aesthetically garbage. They make the areas where they are stored look blighted and cluttered.

    I cannot even count the number of times I’ve almost been nailed by people trying to ride these bike shares when they obviously haven’t ridden a bike in years and can’t balance on them.

    The only way I think they should be allowed is if they are stored on the street and ridden only on the streets and/or bike lanes. Keep them off the sidewalks. These are major accidents waiting to happen and totally preventable by using common sense and not authorizing them at all.

    • I think they’re great but I’m not at all surprised there’s people who find something to bitch about them. Impossible to board or exit the bus? I’m picturing you about to step off the bus and see a bike 4 feet of the doorway- impossible!

      • By the capitol hill light rail station they were often lined up right on the curb and would completely obstruct the back doors of the buses offloading there. Since then they have painted a box for people to put the bikes, which helps, but downtown they haven’t done this and there are often bikes right on the curb blocking the back doors.

        Also, I’ve seen a few blind people run right into the bikes. And many blind advocacy groups are against these, or at least want them done more smartly than the current plan is.

        Would it really be so difficult to have a few areas where they can be left instead of users being allowed to leave them anywhere they damn please? And maybe not paint them in day glow colors?

        It’s just a needless obstruction and they are just ugly and make our city look trashy.

  3. Glad to see Seattle going slow on the scooters. Bike shares are challenging as is when we already have a clear well established set of bike rules. Scooters seem to have no rules and a terrible safety record in cities where they’ve rolled out. Why don’t we try to get the bikes right before we add more mayhem.

  4. Please keep these things off the sidewalks (and enforce that decision)! It’s hard enough to be a pedestrian dodging smokers, skateboards (which aren’t allowed on sidewalks, but go there), bikes, and other impediments without adding another fast moving transport to the mix.

    • seattle city ordinance states skateboards should be on the side walk and not in the street. skateboarders have received tickets for riding in the street in seattle. it is the one of the only major city in the united states that makes skaters skate on the sidewalk and not the street. bikes are also allowed on seattle sidewalks under the bicycle pedestrian law.

  5. I guess this is the next phase in the obesity epidemic. Well on our way to Wall-E. Can’t people just walk? Or pedal a bike?

  6. These things have been a nightmare in other cities. If im not mistaken one city (cant remember off hand) has changed its mind and no longer allows them because people have been killed and severely injured flying off the scooter into traffic
    Also riders ignore the rules and drive them on the sidewalk and end up ramming into people