Ready or not, here come 2,500 electric scooters as city chooses 10 vendors
Bird, Bolt, gruv, JUMP, Lime, Lyft, Sherpa, Spin, VeoRide and Wheels will each be granted 250 scooters to operate within a 50-square-mile test area.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration on Tuesday chose 10 companies to run a four-month, 2,500 electric scooter pilot and launched a quickie education plan to persuade Chicago residents and visitors to abide by the rules of the road.
Bird, Bolt, gruv, JUMP, Lime, Lyft, Sherpa, Spin, VeoRide and Wheels will each be granted 250 scooters to operate within a 50-square mile test area bounded by Halsted Street and the Chicago River on the east; Irving Park Road on the north; Harlem and the city limits on the west and the Chicago River on the south.
During the four-month test, users will be free to “access the scooters wherever it is legal to lock a bike in the public way,” according to City Hall.
The plan calls for scooter riders to “use a smartphone to unlock and ride the devices within the pilot area, though vendors will offer services for non-smartphone users and cash-based options,” according to the city.
Two priority areas have been identified within the pilot zone, where at least 25% of scooters must be placed every morning.
To minimize sidewalk clutter, scooters will need to be parked “upright; away from street corners, bus stops, and buildings; and with a minimum six-foot clearance on the sidewalk,” the city said.
Designated vendors will be required to “retrieve and move improperly parked electric shared scooters within two hours.”
To maximize public safety, scooters will be banned from sidewalks, required to travel at speeds no greater than 15 miles-an-hour and confined to the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.
As additional safety features, scooters will be “equipped with a warning bell; front and rear lights, hand and foot brakes, and a 24/7 phone number for each vendor.”
Vendors will be required to remove scooters from the public way every night and provide the city with “real-time and continuous data on operations, ridership, and safety.”
“Vendors will be held to the highest standards of accountability in how effectively they manage impacts on the public right of way and how they promote the safety of both scooter riders and other people who are in the right of way,” Kevin O’Malley, managing deputy for the city’s Department of Transportation, was quoted as saying in a press release.
With just four days to go before the electric scooter experiment begins, CDOT and its 10 designated vendors are distributing fliers in English and Spanish entitled “Scooter Do’s and Don’ts” to prevent accidents that have plagued other cities.
“We walk scooters on the sidewalk. We keep our eyes on the road. Be alert and pay attention. We wear helmets. We park scooters with care outside of sidewalk paths and by bike racks where possible. We ride in the bicycle lane. We obey all local traffic laws. They apply to us,” the flier states in English and Spanish.
“We don’t ride scooters on the sidewalk. We don’t park scooters in the sidewalk path. We don’t ride intoxicated. We don’t ride with more than one person on a scooter.”
Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, has welcomed the pilot as well as the rigid rules of the road established by the city.
“It will be important to prevent people from riding or parking scooters inappropriately on the sidewalk, or filling up the city’s already limited network of comfortable bike lanes,” Burke said on the day that now-former Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the pilot just three weeks before leaving office.
Burke has argued that four months should be plenty of time to answer “legitimate questions about how scooters will fit in Chicago’s transportation network before committing to a permanent program.”
“The permit includes several requirements designed to proactively address safety concerns, such as requiring users to submit photos of their parked scooter at the end of the trip,” he said.
Burke said he has also encouraged the city to “work with companies and businesses to create designated parking corrals and incentivize proper parking, especially in congested areas like Randolph Street in the West Loop and Milwaukee Avenue” through Wicker Park.
“In addition, we have urged the city to repurpose parking and travel lanes to bike/scooter lanes in the pilot areas’ busiest corridors to help limit sidewalk riding and encourage efficient travel,” he said.