E-scooters began popping up across Chicago Wednesday as the city launched its second e-scooter pilot program.
Three companies — Bird, Lime and Spin — will be allowed to distribute 9,999 scooters across Chicago; 3,333 scooters per company.
The scooters, which travel up to 15 mph, will be available to ride between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Helmets are encouraged but not required, and scooters are accessed through smartphone apps. Each company sets its own rates.
This year’s four-month pilot is different from last year’s initial trial in several ways.
Unlike last year, when the city fielded numerous complaints about scooters being left on sidewalks, the city has baked in safety measures aimed to keep them out of the way of pedestrians when not in use.
The scooters will be equipped with locks that require riders to lock the device to a fixed object — such as bike racks, street signs, retired Chicago parking meters (but not bus stop signs) — to end their trip.
Also new this year: companies can leave their scooters locked to fixed objects overnight if they don’t need to be recharged or transported to a different part of the city in order to balance their fleets. Last year the city required scooters be removed each night and put back in the public way each morning.
If scooters are improperly parked, city officials are urging folks to call the number of that particular scooter company, which will be clearly listed on each scooter.
If no action is taken within two hours, people can report the issue by calling 311 and city workers will retrieve the scooters. Scooter companies will have to pay the city $100 to retrieve any scooter that city workers removes.
The boundaries in which the scooters will be able to operate have been expanded and will include nearly all parts of Chicago except the lakefront trail, The 606 trail and the city’s central business district, which includes the Loop and other portions of the downtown area.
Last year, e-scooters were allowed in an area bound by Halsted Street and the Chicago River on the east, Irving Park Road on the north, Harlem Avenue and the city limits on the west, and the Chicago River on the south.
Vendors will also be required to deploy at least 50% of their scooters within an “equity priority area” that cover about 43% of the space the scooters can roam.
“The equity priority areas cover neighborhoods where residents face systemic disadvantages following generations of underinvestment and inequitable access to transportation and other resources,” according to the mayor’s office.
Also new this year, two of the participating scooter companies plan to test a sidewalk riding detection system that could be used to issue warnings to riders who flaunt rules and ride on sidewalks. Scooters are supposed to only be ridden on roads.