4 Companies Apply to Offer Scooters During Chicago’s Second Pilot Program

A woman rides a scooter in Chicago during the city’s first pilot program in 2019. (WTTW News)A woman rides a scooter in Chicago during the city’s first pilot program in 2019. (WTTW News)

Four companies applied to take part in a second pilot program set to start next month and designed to settle once and for all if scooters should be allowed on Chicago’s streets.

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City officials are evaluating the proposals, and will ultimately pick three firms to scatter 10,000 scooters across much of the city — four times as many allowed during the summer of 2019 — but the scooters will not be allowed downtown or along the lakefront or 606 trails, according to the city’s rules.

Officials declined to identify the firms that applied, but Lime announced in a news release that it had applied to participate in the program, and promised to offer a 50% discount for all rides starting on the South and West sides.

The nine companies that participated in the first pilot program were invited to apply to participate in the second test run, officials said.

“Despite the economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID pandemic, companies have indicated strong interest in participating in the second pilot,” according to a statement from the departments of Transportation and Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. “We have received proposals from four vendors and will be using objective criteria to narrow that down to three companies that will operate in the second pilot.”

The firms selected to participate in the program will be announced in early August, with the pilot starting soon after, officials announced.

At least half of the 3,333 scooters from each firm must be docked on the city’s South and West sides, according to the city’s rules.

Companies must allow their scooters to be locked to poles or other parts of the streetscape to get them out of the public way as part of the second pilot program. After the first test run, aldermen repeatedly complained to city officials about riders dropping the scooters in the middle of sidewalks when their rides ended, causing a hazard.

Approximately 820,000 rides were taken during the pilot program that ran from June to October on the West and Northwest sides of the city, according to the final evaluation of the pilot program from the city and the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

Nearly all of the companies were cited for infractions during the first pilot program, officials said.

City officials designed the second pilot program to determine whether the two-wheelers would give commuters an environmentally friendly option to reach buses, trains and Divvy bicycles and reduce car trips.

To reduce the chance that scooters will spread the coronavirus, companies will need to clean the scooters each time their staff comes in contact with them, and riders will be encouraged to wear gloves and clean their hands with sanitizer or soap after each use. Helmets will be encouraged, but not required, and companies will have to educate riders on safety issues.

The scooters will be required to be docked between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and are banned from the entire central business district, bounded by Chicago Avenue on the north, Roosevelt Road on the south, Halsted Street on the west, with another western boundary on Clark Street between Chicago Avenue and Division Street.

Last year, scooter rentals started at $1 plus 15 cents a minute. The vendors selected by the city will set the prices, officials said.

But the results of the 2019 pilot were inconclusive on that central question, according to the evaluation.

Scooter ridership was concentrated in the West Loop and along the CTA Blue Line, but it is unclear whether scooter trips supplemented train or bus trips. Approximately 34% of online survey respondents told officials they used scooters to go to or from public transit.

The city’s evaluation of the first pilot run of the scooters also found:

—192 people were injured while riding scooters during the pilot program.

—Most rides took place during the evening rush period on weekdays and between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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