Chicagoans Log 640K Rides During 2nd Test of Scooters in City

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)

Chicagoans took approximately 640,000 rides on electric scooters during a four-month second trial run designed to determine whether the two-wheelers can help reduce congestion and solo car trips, according to data released Friday by the Chicago Department of Transportation.

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That represents a significant decline from the initial test of the scooters in Chicago between June and July 2019, officials said. That initial test of scooters in Chicago featured just 2,500 devices and was limited to the West and Northwest sides of the city, but featured 821,000 trips.

The second pilot program, which ends Saturday, included 10,000 scooters, which were allowed to roam throughout the city — but not downtown or along the Lakefront or 606 trails — and half had to be docked on the South and West sides, according to the city’s rules.

The three firms that participated in the pilot — Bird, Lime and Spin — met those goals, officials said. About 25% of scooter trips took place on the South and West sides, officials said.

The average scooter trip taken since the pilot program began Aug. 12 was 1.71 miles — 14% longer than the average trip during the first month of the first pilot program, according to the data released Friday.

The longer average ride and successful placement of scooters around the city could point to the program getting closer to its goals of improving transportation equity in areas with gaps in the transit network, a metric the first pilot fell short of meeting. A significant number of the rides in 2019 started and ended in the same place, according to a Center for Neighborhood Technology analysis, indicating someone taking a scooter for a test drive or joyride.

To address complaints from the 2019 pilot, each scooter had to have a tag hanging from it, reminding riders not to operate it on a sidewalk and to lock it up at the end of their trip, officials said. Scooters could be docked to bicycle racks, corrals, street signs, defunct parking meters and light poles — but not bus stop poles, according to the city’s rules.

Those requirements led to a 79% drop in the number of complaints per day and per device, according to the data released Friday. That improvement will be key to addressing one of the major issues aldermen had after the first pilot, a concern that dominated a City Council hearing earlier this year.

There were anecdotal complaints from cyclists that the locking requirement caused a shortage of space at bicycle racks, although new racks installed by the CDOT this year could help ease that crunch should the scooters become a permanent fixture.

“We are encouraged by the preliminary data we have seen from the second pilot,” Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareño said. “This pilot was designed thoughtfully and carefully to test this new mobility option, and we are now going to work with stakeholders to thoroughly examine the data to evaluate whether e-scooters make sense for Chicago in the long term.”

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

A full evaluation of the second pilot program will be completed in early 2021, after the results of a survey launched Friday are complete. Those who rode scooters — and those who did not — are asked to complete a survey before Jan. 7 that will help officials determine the fate of the electronic two-wheelers.

“Now that the second pilot is winding down, we invite the public to share their feedback and help us evaluate whether e-scooters make sense as a permanent part of Chicago’s transportation system,” CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi said.

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

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