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With helmet requirements, sidewalk restrictions, and 15 MPH limit, Seattle approves scooter-share plan

The City Council has approved a plan that will bring three competitors to the city to launch an electric scooter-share system in Seattle.

The pilot plan approved Monday based on legislation pushed forward by Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office will allow three operators in the city with up to 500 scooters each. The fleet could eventually grow to 2,000 scooters for each operator. The operators will pay a $150 fee per scooter.

It’s not clear what companies will scoot forward to be part of the pilot. In June, bike share returned to Seattle after a brief hiatus as Uber made way for Lime to restore the service here. Lime has said the addition of scooters to its fleet of offerings is key to its operations and Seattle has said one of the scooter-share operators will also offer bikes.

As for the other two slots, the Stranger reports that the Seattle Department of Transportation will make permits available to “a company that offers seated scooters, and a company which offers standing scooters” in an attempt to diversify the offerings.

Lime and Spin are currently part of a pilot program with King County in the White Center area, just south of downtown Seattle. Lime is currently available in Redmond. There, its scooters cost $1 to unlock and 25 cents per minute to ride when the program launched. Share companies have been offering low-income discounts, and free rides for essential workers.

Mid-range electric scooters cost around $500 to $600 — around 150 10-minute scooter-share rides.

Many of the elements worked out by the council focused on safety issues around the scooters which are already ubiquitous in many cities. Helmets are already required by city law but will be “incentivized” by the program — SDOT will prioritize issuing permits to vendors that have active plans to get their customers to wear helmets. The vendors will also be required to indemnify the city for injuries for a broad set of claims related to their scooters. As part of the program, the city will fund UW and Harborview Hospital to study the safety of scooters in Seattle.

Meanwhile, scooter speeds will be capped at 15 MPH including a 8 MPH-cap for first-time riders. The scooters will be allowed in bike lanes and on streets with speed limits of 25 MPH or lower. Sidewalk riding is not allowed. And parking is highly restricted.

It’s also not clear when the scooters will begin to appear on city streets. Potential operators must now apply to be part of the pilot.

“After being the first city to have free floating bikeshare, Seattle is taking another major step toward a more sustainable future,” Jonathan Hopkins, director of strategic development for the Northwest for Lime said in a statement sent to media. “It’s now more important than ever for residents to have safe, socially-distant transportation options—like bikes and scooters—that can help reduce car congestion. We applaud the council for its vision and look forward to serving Seattle residents with e-bikes and scooters for many years to come.”

Tuesday vote was 8-1 with transportation committee head Alex Pedersen the lone dissenter over safety and cost concerns.

UPDATE: SDOT announced it has invited three providers to apply:

  • LINK was chosen as the highest ranking company offering standing scooters. This small, convenient option is the standard style of scooter which has proven very popular in cities across the world. LINK offers a new, more robust stand-style scooter that we are excited might reduce maintenance and safety concerns.

  • Wheels was chosen as the highest ranking company offering seated scooters, which are a more accessible option for many people with mobility impairments. Living up to their name, these scooters have larger wheels which may offer a more stable ride suited to Seattle’s hills and weather. Beginning with a portion of the fleet, and expanding to every device by fall, Wheels scooters in Seattle will also include a built-in helmet with a biodegradable sanitation liner which can be removed after each ride so the helmet will be clean for the next customer.

  • Lime was chosen as the company that will offer both bikes and scooters. In order to support bike share, which has become a very important part of Seattle’s transportation system, we designated that one permit slot would go to a company which also offered bikes. Lime will be permitted to deploy the same number of scooters as the other companies They are also already permitted to offer bike share in Seattle, and has committed to grow their bike share fleet from around 500 bikes to 2,000 bikes this fall.

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9 thoughts on “With helmet requirements, sidewalk restrictions, and 15 MPH limit, Seattle approves scooter-share plan

    • Former Capitol Hill resident whose been living in Berlin for the past year, where scooters are everywhere and very convenient. These restrictions are asinine and will ultimately fail the program. You can’t expect people to be carrying around helmets with them just to take a scooter. Here in Europe most scooters are relegated to bike lanes but sometimes you have to swerve around on sidewalks especially if the road is busy or cobblestone.

      • Berlin metro has 3.7M people, 10 lines of Ubahn, 16 lines of Sbahn in 344sq miles.

        Seattle metro has 3.9M, 2 lines of Ubahn (not connected), 1 line of Sbahn (another one in 2023) in 8,186sq miles.

        We lack the density to support any of these operations, car shares, bike shares, scooter shares. I’d love this to work, but we don’t have the city to sustain it

    • I’ve spent time in cities with these scooter programs in the US and it’s not pleasant. In Salt Lake City you have people cruising by you on the sidewalk going 15-20mph with no warning, passing within inches. Scooters strewn over the sidewalks and in front of people’s houses blocking the way for wheelchairs accessibility. In downtown LA the scooters are trashed and laying in the street all over. Add to that Seattle’s generally narrow sidewalks, hills, rain, pot-holes on neighborhood streets – this is gonna be a shit show and this isnt even a successful business. Just another venture capital subsidized BS tech experiment like uber, lyft, lime.

  1. With the economy in the crapper, downtown Seattle is a sh**hole because of crime (thank you spineless city council for defunding SPD), businesses moving out of Seattle, homelessness barely abated, streets are crap because most DOT money is going to light rail, mass unemployment due to c-19, perfect timing for the city to subsidize a cute little scooter for friends and family of the council and/or mayor, which has the grand tradition of losing money hand over fist. Not to mention the safety issues where riders will think they have right-of-way on the streets and sidewalks.

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