Bird, Lime, Spin to Offer Scooters During Chicago’s Second Pilot Program

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Bird, Lime and Spin will take part in a second pilot program starting Aug. 12 in an effort to settle once and for all if scooters should be allowed on Chicago’s streets.

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The three firms will 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.

Scooters are limited to 15 mph, cannot be ridden on sidewalks, and may only be operated from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Unlike the rules in place during the first pilot program, all of the scooters must be locked to a fixed object at the end of a trip, such as bike racks and corrals and street signs.

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.

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

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.

City officials will check that firms are meeting that requirement twice a day at 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., officials said.

Approximately 820,000 rides were taken during the pilot program that ran from June to October 2019 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.

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 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 this time, officials said.

But the results of the 2019 pilot were inconclusive on the central question of whether the scooters reduced car trips, 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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