Seattle is shuffling through a renewed set of providers for the city’s fleet of shared scooters and bikes with one brand new provider entering the mix and two others winding down operations in the city.
The Seattle Department of Transportation says the shuffling as it hands out permits for the 2022-2023 period comes with the conclusion of its “pilot phase” integrating the new scooters and bikes onto the city’s streets and sidewalks.
SDOT says the 2022-2023 providers came out on top in “a competitive application process” requiring each scooter company “to provide a detailed strategy for how they would address safety, equity, and improper parking.”
SDOT has selected three scooter companies to receive operation permits: Lime, LINK by Superpedestrian, and, a newcomer to the city, Bird. In addition to scooters, riders continue to have the option of renting shared bicycles from Lime and Veo.
SDOT says Wheels and Spin will not continue operating in Seattle and each has “a few weeks to wind down their operations and transfer their fleet to other cities.”
As for Bird, SDOT says the provider 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,” SDOT said in the announcement. Bird will need a few weeks to begin operations here, according to the announcement.
SDOT says its pilot showed the value of including scooters in the city’s share fleet with 21% of riders surveyed saying they connected to transit, and over half saying they would have used a taxi, ride-hail, or personal vehicle if scooter share had not been available. The city also says one of the biggest problems with the scooter fleets improved during the pilot period with “with documented obstructions of sidewalks and paths dropping from 21% to 8%.”
Each provider controls its own pricing but SDOT has set a maximum fare of $1.50 per hour for its low-income program. UPDATE: Sorry for the error. We’ve updated the post to reflect the maximum has been set for the low-fare rider program, not a cap on the entire system. As noted in comments below, the companies typically charge more than 20 cents per minute and ride costs can add up quickly.
SDOT says each provider has also committed to “safety features and tactics” including:
- Continuing proven safety tactics: At the start of the scooter program, SDOT implemented various safety features and tactics including requiring riders to take a safety quiz before their first ride and a built-in speed limit cap of 8 mph on the first ride.
- Sturdier and stronger equipment: All three companies are offering more robust and safer scooter designs than earlier generations used in many U.S. cities over the past several years. This includes features like larger shock-absorbent wheels, superior suspension systems, internal brake housing, and repositioned batteries to create a lower center of gravity. These improvements help lead to a smoother and more stable ride, which is better able to navigate bumps in the road.
- Helmet distribution programs: All three companies provided detailed plans to give away free helmets to riders, as well as a new program offering discounts and incentives to riders wearing a helmet. Scooter companies gave away hundreds of free helmets to Seattle riders last year, and all have plans to organize more free helmet give-away events in the future. (See the longer SDOT Blog version of this story for a list of several upcoming community events where scooter companies will give out helmets).
- Use technology to enforce good parking: All three will companies will implement GPS and intelligent sensor technology to help prevent riders from being on streets where they are not allowed for safety reasons and encourage less riding on sidewalks. This is a helpful tool for educating riders on parking rules and preventing people from ending their trip by leaving a scooter where it’s not supposed to be. To learn more about how to correctly park scooters, please visit our website or watch this short video produced in partnership with Rooted in Rights.
- Improve batteries: The companies use batteries that last longer and can be quickly swapped out on the street so customers will have an easier time finding a fully-charged scooter and scooters will not need to be transported back to their base to be recharged as often.
- Continue commitment to equity: All three companies have committed to equity goals to distribute scooters in diverse neighborhoods throughout Seattle. Each company has also committed to offering a reduced-price program for people with low incomes. You can sign up on Lime’s, LINK (by Superpedestrian)’s, and Bird’s websites.
SDOT says it plans to review the scooter share permits on an annual basis.
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