Minneapolis prepares to quintuple the number of scooters on city streets

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The City of Minneapolis has crunched the numbers on their 2018 scooter pilot, finding that the availability of just a few hundred rental scooters “contributed to reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Vehicle Miles Travelled.”

On Tuesday, the City Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee approved a proposal to raise the limit on rental scooters from 400 to 2,000. This number would be split between at least two, but no more than four scooter providers. The University of Minnesota campus had its own scooter pilot in 2018, which allowed up to 200 scooters.

The two companies currently providing scooter rentals in Minneapolis are Lime and Bird. The city’s new pilot would last through March 2020. The plan must now be approved by the full council.

According to a survey of scooter users, 35% identified themselves as “as non-users of bicycles, likely indicating lack of familiarity or comfort with bikeway network.” 42% reported their use of scooters resulted in reduced use of cars. The vast majority of riders used the scooters to travel to a destination like home or work, with only five percent riding simply for fun.

Josh Johnson, who oversaw the city’s scooter pilot said some of the data “shows us that we have a lot of work to do to make scooters equitable.” 68% of scooter survey respondents identified as male. 88% identified as white. 70% with incomes over $50k. 19% with incomes less than $25k.

To help solve the problem of equitable access to scooters and uneven geographic distribution, the 2019 pilot would require 30% of scooters to be located in areas of concentrated poverty. The plan would require that no more than 40% of scooters be placed downtown.

From July to November, 74,877 unique riders scooted for a total of:

  • 225,543 rides
  • 302,326 total miles
  • 1,566 rides per day
  • 1.34 miles per ride
  • 70,578 total hours ridden
  • 18.7 minutes per ride
  • High of 39 trips in one day on an individual scooter
  • 92.7% of city streets and off-street trails were ridden on

Ward 3 Council Member Steve Fletcher responded to the staff presentation by telling Mr. Johnson, “congratulations on finding a picture of a scooter driver using a helmet.” In honor of that, I have created this dramatic reenactment of Steve Fletcher riding a scooter in a helmet.

Fletcher then asked about rumors he’d heard from a couple of neighbors that there’s been “a major uptick in injuries and emergency room visits” related to scooters. Fletcher appeared not to trust his neighbors, then asked for a debunking. Johnson reported there has been no such major uptick in injuries and emergency room visits.

Council President Lisa Bender said she’s “glad to see scooters using our bicycle network, and I think it actually will help us make the case for expansion of that important infrastructure.” She agrees with the “conservative” slow roll-out of scooters, and encouraging proper scooter behavior.

Bender says she’s also “mindful of not overly capping” the use of alternative transportation that helps the city reduce car trips: “My constituents sometimes ask, when are we going to start capping how many cars we allow in our city?”

Bender finished by indicating that “going forward” it may be time to look at stronger regulation of labor standards for “companies operating in our right of way.” This would include scooter companies, as well as car services like Uber and Lyft.