Two smart ways to make rented scooters work best in Chicago

Before Chicago makes way for rented scooters in every neighborhood, we should heed the advice of the Active Transportation Alliance.

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Sharable electric scooters under brand name Lime, by the micro-mobility company Neutron Holdings, Inc., wait on sidewalks for pedestrian use,

Should rented scooters be ridden downtown? A new report says they shouldn’t, and the Sun-Times Editorial Board agrees.

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Chicago’s pilot electric scooter program ends Oct. 15, and one takeaway is clear:

Scooters are a fun, environmentally friendly way to get around, but they’re not ready for prime time.

Chicagoans took hundreds of thousands of scooter rides during the four-month pilot on the Near West Side — 772,450 rides as of Oct. 6.

Based on the experience of other cities, transit experts estimate that about one in three of those rides replaced a car trip. So almost 260,000 fewer car trips were taken during the pilot period — a good indication that scooters could help curb traffic congestion.

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All the same, the city has wrinkles to iron out, especially with respect to safety, before welcoming rented electric scooters as a permanent part of our city’s transit landscape.

A new report from the Active Transportation Alliance includes two recommendations that we favor.

For one, let’s keep scooters out of downtown. As the Alliance points out, Chicago should focus on making the Loop more accessible for pedestrians, bike riders and mass transit — not on integrating scooters into an already crowded mix.

Second, the city should require riders to leave scooters in designated parking corrals or docking stations. We’ve seen far too many scooters tossed carelessly on the sidewalk, creating a hazard for pedestrians, especially people who have disabilities.

Adam Ballard of Access Living, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, says that “extra regulation” is a must for his group to support scooter expansion long-term. And other cities already regulate scooters in that way, says Kyle Whitehead of the Alliance.

“It doesn’t have to be something as expensive as a dock,” Whitehead said. “It could be a painted space on the sidewalk or a spot on the street.”

The Active Transportation Alliance also suggests a targeted expansion, favoring the South Side and West Side, and using city revenue from the new business to pay for more shared bike lanes.

We see no reason scooters should not be here to stay. Chicago can make this work.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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