Chicago’s 2nd electric scooter pilot begins to take shape

Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi said the next test is likely to begin this summer, but it hasn’t been designed, nor has the test area been picked. Only firms that took part in the first program will be eligible.

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Lyft scooters parked at a West Loop corner.

Under the city’s next test program for electric scooters, rental companies likely wouldn’t be allowed to just place the scooters loose on the sidewalk, as these were in the West Loop, a mayoral aide said Wednesday.

Sun-Times file

Round two of Chicago’s grand experiment with electric scooters will include fewer than 10 companies and is almost certain to reduce sidewalk clutter by requiring scooters to be parked in docks, corrals or locked public racks, a top mayoral aide said Wednesday.

Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi lifted the veil on the changes City Hall is seeking during a joint committee hearing on the city’s first electric scooter pilot.

The combined meeting of the City Council’s License and Traffic Committees was the first in a series of outreach efforts to make certain the second round “reflects lessons learned from and the lived experiences of people who were affected by” the first pilot.

Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi said the second pilot is likely to begin this summer, but it hasn’t been designed yet, nor has the test area been chosen.

Only those 10 companies from the first pilot will be eligible for the second test, but the field will be narrowed, she said.

“We do think fewer companies makes sense. We’ll need to develop objective criteria to determine how many and which ones. We think this will make our management easier and the vendors more responsive,” Biagi said.

“We want to test new strategies, technologies and equipment to improve safety and comfort of both riders and non-riders, including those with disabilities. We like the idea of a lock-to requirement. These are the kinds of things where you can lock the scooter to something just like you normally would with a bike. That gets it off the sidewalk. That gets it out of the public way. Those technologies are out there.”

Biagi said the city also wants to “increase availability of scooters in priority areas” and “broaden access” for people who are “unbanked or don’t use smart phones.”

“We did make inroads in that. But we think we can do better. It was hard for some folks to sign up,” she said.

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said he sees no reason why scooter companies “full of smart people” can’t find a way to disable scooters ridden illegally on Chicago sidewalks.

“Scooters do not belong on sidewalks for exactly the same reason bicycles do not belong on sidewalks,” Reilly said.

“During the pilot — at least my experience in the western end of my ward where the eastern-most boundary [of the pilot area] exists — I hardly ever saw a scooter being used off of a sidewalk. If we’re gonna have a city policy saying you can’t do this on sidewalks, we should make it physically impossible for that to happen.”

Biagi said the city “hasn’t discussed anything” with the scooter companies yet. But, she added: “We are very interested in these kinds of things.”

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