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Electric scooters coming to Seattle: Lime to deploy 500 to city streets this week

KOMO-TV Seattle logo KOMO-TV Seattle 2 days ago Patrick Quinn, KOMO News reporter
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SEATTLE – Electric scooters are set to return to the city's streets this week after Lime was issued a permit Tuesday by Seattle's Department of Transportation, paving the way for the personal mobility scooters to make their debut.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Jonathan Hopkins, a Lime spokesman. “The city of Seattle has been a micro-mobility leader, starting in 2017 when they brought free-floating bike share to Seattle, the first big city in America to do that.”

The City Council voted 8-1 last week to approve the citywide pilot program. 

Councilman Alex Pedersen, who chairs the council's Transportation Committee, cast the sole no vote, saying he had unanswered questions about the program's viability in Seattle.

But the council's approval allowed e-scooter firms to accelerate in the city.

Hopkins said his company will deploy 500 e-scooters around the city early Wednesday morning. City officials said the electric transportation rides could play a long-term role in reducing air pollution around Puget Sound. 

“We are urging the scooter share companies to promote healthy choices, considering the current air quality," said Ethan Bergerson, spokesman for SDOT. "The City is still advising people to limit any travel to essential trips due to the smoke and recognize that people can make the right, responsible choices for themselves based on need and circumstance.”

Under city rules, first-time riders will be limited to speeds of up to eight miles per hour. After that, the scooters can travel up to 15 miles per hour.

Two other scooter companies, LINK and Wheels, have indicated that they plan to apply soon for permits, paving the way for an expected roll out by their companies this fall. City officials expect up to 1,500 scooters could be rolling on Seattle streets once all three firms have launched them during the pilot program.

“Seattle is a premier city in every way and has always been a leader on tech, innovation, and mobility, so we are very excited," a Wheels spokesperson said. "We can’t wait to launch in Seattle.”

"We are honored to have the privilege of serving the people of Seattle," the spokesperson for LINK told KOMO News. "As we prepare our fleet and finalize our COVID-specific safety protocols, we anticipate a mid-fall deployment.”

Proponents of scooters say they offer a clean, equitable mobility option that will cut congestion on area roads. But some healthcare workers say severe injuries to riders have mounted as e-scooters have grown in popularity. 

“In the future of my life, I’d like to not have all this smoke around me," Hopkins said. "And that’s caused by a warming program, so let’s do something about it."

Dr. Fred Rivara, a physician at the University of Washington and Harborview Medical Center, sent a letter to Seattle City Council members while they were considering the program that warned about the downsides to e-scooters.

“E-scooters are dangerous," Rivera said. "There have now been studies published from around the world demonstrating that crashes on e-scooters can result in serious injuries, including brain injuries.”

Citywide e-scooter share programs have launched in other U.S. cities, including Portland, Los Angeles and San Francisco. But Dallas officials halted their program earlier this month because of issues that included compliance concerns and questions about public safety.

“We have large groups riding around downtown and causing problems for businesses and community members,” Michael Roger, director of the Dallas Department of Transportation, told KOMO News.

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