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Electric scooters return to Chicago on Aug. 12 for 2nd year of pilot program

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 7/30/2020 By Sydney Czyzon, Chicago Tribune
a man riding a skateboard up the side of a road: A man rides a scooter on North Morgan Street in Chicago on Thursday, June 20, 2019. © Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS A man rides a scooter on North Morgan Street in Chicago on Thursday, June 20, 2019.

The next round of the electric scooter pilot program is slated to launch Aug. 12 in Chicago, including 10,000 scooters from Bird, Lime and Spin, according to city and company officials.

The program, which follows one last year involving 10 companies, allows vendors to station scooters everywhere except the lakefront, the central business district and The 606 trail. The scooters can be ridden from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day at speeds up to 15 mph. People cannot ride the scooters on sidewalks.

Riders will be required to use locking mechanisms on scooters to secure them to fixed objects — such as bike racks or street signs — at the end of trips. The lock mandate is aimed at reducing clutter on sidewalks, especially for people who have visual impairments or disabilities who need clear pathways, one of several problems reported with the initial pilot.

a person sitting on the side of a road: An electric scooter blocks the sidewalk in front of McFetridge Sports Center on California Ave. in Chicago on June 20, 2019. © Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS An electric scooter blocks the sidewalk in front of McFetridge Sports Center on California Ave. in Chicago on June 20, 2019.

“We have designed a new pilot program that expands on what we learned during last year’s pilot and will test the viability of scooters as a mobility option across Chicago’s neighborhoods this year,” said city Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi, in a release. “Particularly during this public health crisis, it’s important that CDOT continues to pilot additional and innovative options for Chicagoans to get around.”

About 43% of the pilot area will be areas “where residents face systemic disadvantages following generations of underinvestment and inequitable access to transportation and other resources,” according to the release. Vendors must put at least 50% of their scooters in these areas, and city officials said they will check for compliance twice each day.

a person riding a skateboard on a city street: A person on an electric-shared scooter passes the scene where two people were shot, one fatally, near the intersection of North Laramie Avenue and West Lake Street, July 5, 2019, in Chicago. © Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS A person on an electric-shared scooter passes the scene where two people were shot, one fatally, near the intersection of North Laramie Avenue and West Lake Street, July 5, 2019, in Chicago.

“It’s great to be back in Chicago,” LeAaron Foley, government relations director for Lime in Chicago, said in a release. “Lime scooters will fill transportation gaps in many neighborhoods on the South and West sides — connecting residents to more opportunities while serving as a valuable part of the city’s transportation network.”

Lime said essential workers, including health care workers and first responders, will receive free 30-minute rides. All other riders in priority areas on the South and West sides will get 50% discounts on rides, and there is no enrollment required. Prices for scooters are set by vendors, but last year, most could be rented for $1 plus 15 cents a minute.

This year’s pilot has four times as many scooters as last year’s, which included 2,500 scooters on the North, South and West sides. The city gave permits to 10 vendors last year, but this year is allowing three companies to distribute 3,333 scooters each.

“Chicago residents previously demonstrated significant enthusiasm and support for micromobility,” said Maurice Henderson, director of government partnerships for Bird. “We anticipate that adoption of transportation alternatives such as e-scooters will increase during a time when traditional transportation options are strained or not as readily available to them.”In a news release, the city said The chosen vendors showed an “ability to meet Chicago’s strict operational, safety and equity guidelines.”

a group of people walking down the street: A commuter at LaSalle and Randolph Streets in Chicago saves a few calories and creates a little breeze for himself by using a scooter as temperatures hover in the mid 80s in late afternoon on July 19, 2019. © Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS A commuter at LaSalle and Randolph Streets in Chicago saves a few calories and creates a little breeze for himself by using a scooter as temperatures hover in the mid 80s in late afternoon on July 19, 2019.

In 2019, riders took about 7,000 trips a day on the scooters. But the popularity of the scooters led to nearly 200 related emergency room visits.

The last pilot ended up with scooters scattered across the city, parked on sidewalks and in areas not designated for the devices. Some residents complained of scooters being left in doorways. WBBM-Ch. 2 reported scooters floating in the Chicago River.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection gave 39 citations to nine of last year’s companies, with Lyft excluded, according to a news release. The reasons for citations included failing to respond to complaints within a couple hours and failure to have a working front light, among others.

“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,” Rosa Escareno, the business affairs commissioner, said in Thursday’s release.

This year’s vendors will be required to provide educational materials online. They will work with safety ambassadors and police to put on educational events, and they are recommended to give away helmets. New riders will complete safety quizzes on phone apps used to rent the scooters.

a person riding a skate board on a city street: A man and child ride a rented electric scooter together through the intersection of Racine Avenue and Monroe Street, Sept. 19, 2019, in Chicago. © John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS A man and child ride a rented electric scooter together through the intersection of Racine Avenue and Monroe Street, Sept. 19, 2019, in Chicago.

The city gathered feedback from residents about last year’s pilot to create its updated rules. This year’s pilot is part of the business and consumer affairs department’s two-year emerging business permit, which can be extended if city officials receive favorable data and feedback about the pilot.

a group of people on a sidewalk: Commuters head towards their trains as electric scooters stand parked ready for usage to the public near Milwaukee Avenue and Ashland in Chicago during the morning rush hour, Aug. 13, 2019, © Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Commuters head towards their trains as electric scooters stand parked ready for usage to the public near Milwaukee Avenue and Ashland in Chicago during the morning rush hour, Aug. 13, 2019,

sczyzon@chicagotribune.com

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a young man riding a skateboard up the side of a road: People ride electric scooters along The 606 on June 25, 2019, in Bucktown. © Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS People ride electric scooters along The 606 on June 25, 2019, in Bucktown. a person riding a bicycle on a city street: A woman on a electric scooter joins a pack of bicyclists as they zoom past Milwaukee Avenue near Ashland in Chicago during the morning rush hour, Aug. 13, 2019, © Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS A woman on a electric scooter joins a pack of bicyclists as they zoom past Milwaukee Avenue near Ashland in Chicago during the morning rush hour, Aug. 13, 2019,
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