Chicago rolls out e-scooter pilot program
Thousands of electric scooters have arrived in Chicago as part of a four-month pilot program.
Chicago is the latest major city to open the door to shareable electric scooters, bringing a total of 2,500 e-scooters to city streets. The city’s pilot program for dockless e-scooters launched June 15, tallying 11,000 rides in its first weekend alone.
The e-scooters are administered by 10 separate companies, providing 250 scooters each. The maximum speed of each e-scooter is 15 miles per hour. Unlike Chicago’s Divvy bikes, e-scooters are not docked at fixed locations. Instead, riders can pick up scooters wherever they find them parked, and then leave them unattended at the end of their ride – as long as it is within the pilot program’s defined boundaries.
The four-month pilot program confines scooter use to a 50-square-mile zone on Chicago’s west side, meaning some of the city’s busiest areas, including the Loop and lakefront neighborhoods, fall outside the program’s boundaries. Geofencing technology prevents riders from using e-scooters outside the program’s boundaries. Two “priority areas” are marked on the city’s far west side – areas with little to no Divvy bike access – require companies to circulate 25% of their e-scooters within them each morning.
Following the Oct. 15 end date, the city will evaluate the program to determine whether to permit e-scooters on a more permanent basis, and if so, to what degree the city will expand access. The city also looks to test the effectiveness of safety regulations and the reliability of electric scooters as a form of transportation.
The Chicago Department of Transportation and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection are both involved in administering Chicago’s e-scooter pilot program. The 10 companies participating in the pilot program are: Bird, Lime, Lyft, Jump, Spin, Sherpa, Bolt, Grüv, Wheels and VeoRide. To unlock an e-scooter, riders must use the specific scooter vendor’s smartphone app. Ride prices vary between vendors, but typically cost $1 for access to a scooter and 15 cents per minute to ride.
In other cities, dockless e-scooter programs have led to public complaints, often due to e-scooter injuries and poor public maintenance of the devices.
Chicago hopes to preempt those problems by requiring riders to submit a photo of the scooter properly parked before ending their ride. E-scooters must be parked similarly to Divvy bikes, meaning riders cannot park them on a corner, lean them against a building or block sidewalk paths. City-approved scooter parking locations include public bike racks or corrals, covered bike parking shelters, retired Chicago parking meters, and street signs.
At the end of each day, vendors collect their e-scooters and redistribute them in the morning. Operating hours for e-scooters run from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Dockless electric scooters have the potential to play a large role in the city’s transportation landscape, especially when it comes to the “last mile” of transit – which refers to the distance gap between a train or bus stop and a ultimate person’s destination. Electric scooters can fill that gap in a way that is both relatively cheap and convenient. Experts also hope expanded availability of electric scooters will bring positive environmental benefits, by providing a simple alternative to cars for those who need to make quick trips around the city.
Dockless electric scooters are gaining popularity in major cities across the country. While Chicago has yet to see what the pilot program yields, Chicagoans could stand to benefit from greater choice when it comes to new and innovative modes of transportation.