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What Seattle learned from its electric scooter pilot program

Electric scooters are an unsanctioned form of mobility here in Toronto, mostly because people think they’re dangerous, but also because I think people are worried about them cluttering up our sidewalks.

The problem with this position is that electric scooters are also a lot of fun to ride and people seem to find them useful. The last time I rode one was in Paris and it seemed perfectly safe to me, though it may have been because there were two of us on it and we were kind of overloading the thing.

In any event, lots of cities either have them or are piloting them. Seattle just finished year one of its pilot program and here’s what they learned:

  • From September 2020 to October 2021, Seattle saw 1.4 million trips taken by over 260,000 riders
  • Electric scooter ridership greatly exceeded that of public bicycles, with 300,000 scooter trips taken in September alone, compared to about 35,000 bike trips
  • 54% of surveyed scooter riders said that they would have taken a taxi or driven their personal vehicle had a scooter not been available
  • 21% of riders said that they used it to connect to public transit (helping to solve that pesky last-mile problem)
  • 17 collisions involving a scooter and a car were reported during the pilot year (though, for what it’s worth, some/many of the incidents involved a scooter that was privately owned and not part of the actual pilot program)

As much as I love riding a bike, it’s a bit more of a commitment compared to riding an e-scooter, which is why I think the numbers look the way that they do here. Not everybody wants to bring a change of clothes and shower at the office.

So I think it’s really too bad that Toronto just shut these down before exploring ways to make them both safe and useful.

2 Comments

  1. Caspar

    Although I am a supporter of electric scooters in where they replace last-mile transportation problems and can replace a large number of car rides in an urban setting, the reason why they have such bad press is that they are so accessible and many people ride them with insufficient knowledge, attention or capabilities.
    A case in pont is you admitting to riding one in París with two people on it, which is something that is legally prohibited here in France….

    Liked by 1 person

    • AM

      I think Caspar is right on the money. Because they fall into a grey zone with regards to which rules apply to them, people tend to ride them like maniacs, everywhere. Calgary’s downtown is littered with them. There is something that’s an issue with the ability to leave them anywhere anytime: it makes the city look cluttered and disorderly.

      If someone found a way to manage both the rules of the road and the clutter problems, then maybe it can work. For sharing programs, though, you’d have a hard time getting away from the tragedy of the commons: one is not responsible for the scooter after one uses it, therefore people don’t give a shit.

      Like

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