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Ready or Not, Dockless Scooters Have Arrived in Chicago

Test-riding Lime scooters in Lincoln Park last weekend. Photo: Lime

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Last month I reported that dockless electric scooter companies were jockeying to enter the Chicago market, including lobbying for Illinois legislation that would have made it legal to ride the gadgets on sidewalks and in bike lanes. A Freedom of Information Act request showed that both city officials and the Active Transportation Alliance are wary of the new technology. In other cities there have been complaints about scooters strewn across sidewalks and riders clogging bikeways, zooming down sidewalks, and occasionally crashing into people on foot. Still, Active Trans director Ron Burke argued that, if properly regulated, the tech could be part of the solution to reducing car dependence.

Last weekend dockless scooters made their first large-scale debut in Chicago as Lime, which is participating in the South Side dockless bike-share pilot, deployed 40 vehicles in Lincoln Park in conjunction with the Sheffield Music Fest and Garden Walk, according to spokeswoman Becky Carrol. She said she was told the Chicago Department of Transportation was informed of the “pop-up demo.”

CDOT officials did not respond to my request for comment on the pop-up. According to a Tribune report, the department recently stated, “Chicago is always exploring the latest technology to see how it (can) better serve the needs of our residents. We are developing policies appropriate for Chicago and are continuing to explore the impact of e-scooters on city streets.”

Carrol says the demo was a success. “Despite the rain and grey skies, festival-goers were out in full force and were big fans of the scooters as all were utilized throughout the weekend,” she said. “Lime will continue to do scooter pop-ups throughout the summer on weekends in partnership with various neighborhood festivals across the city. Fans of our scooters can check out our app on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays to find out where our pop-up demos will be located, but our goal is to primarily give festival-goers an opportunity for this unique experience. Locations will be made available weekend to weekend.”

Not everyone was pleased with the Lincoln Park pop-up however. This Twitter user reported that sidewalk clutter was an issue.

Lots of Lime-S electric scooters littering the sidewalks in the DePaul / Lincoln Park neighborhood all of a sudden. Initially laid out nicely but quickly scatter. @ChicagoDOT @streetsblogchi @activetrans @AldermanSmith43 #chicago

— B Yo (@BDY60614) July 21, 2018

Like dockless bike-share, dockless scooters systems allow users to locate and check out a vehicle by using a smartphone app. Lime charges $1 to check out a scooter, plus 15 cents per minute.

Bike advocate Lowell Nelson reported that he had trouble using the technology when he spotted some of Lime’s scooters in Lincoln Park last weekend. “I had heard about dockless electric scooters in the Bay Area, so wasn’t completely surprised to see a few scooting in Chicago,” he said. “A couple hours later I saw one parked on a sidewalk so I thought I’d try it. Downloaded the app, but the scooter I was standing next to didn’t appear, but there was one a few blocks away so I walked . to try that one. The second scooter was either indoors on not properly located.”

Did any Streetsblog readers try out the scooters last weekend? If so, please share your thoughts on the technology in the comments section.

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