One month into Chicago’s second grand experiment with electric scooters, a few things have changed that shows the excitement may be wearing off.
The ridership rate is down, despite an increase in trips. So far this year, there have been 230,400 trips. That compares to 218,000 trips during the first month of last year’s pilot, but that was in a smaller area and with fewer scooters.
Only three companies were selected for this round: Bird, Lime and Spin.
The average number of trips-per-scooter is 1.42 daily trips for each device, down from 4.76 daily trips during the same period a year ago.
Scooter trips this year average 1.87 miles; that’s 34 percent longer than the average ride during the first pilot.
Complaints about scooters to Chicago’s 311 system have dropped dramatically — by 60% — thanks to a new requirement that riders lock their scooters to a fixed object at the end of their trips. Approved locking locations include bike racks, corrals, street signs, retired parking meters and light poles. Bus stop signs are a no-no.
And the city’s three vendors are doing a much better job of meeting a city mandate that 50% of scooters be deployed to a “priority area” that includes huge swaths of the South and West sides.
Through the first month of Round 2, a daily average of 49.3% of all scooters have been deployed to the “priority area,” more than double last year’s compliance rate of 28%. Nearly 27% of all scooter trips occurred in the priority area.
Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareno said she is encouraged, but remains determined to hold the three vendors to the city’s “strict terms and requirements.”
Already, the the department has issued 14 “notices to correct,” including six apiece for Bird and Lime and two for Spin.
The notices “serve as formal warnings” to remedy the problems or face “further enforcement and fines.”
The complaints include failure to: rebalance scooters; relocate within two hours any scooters parked improperly, or outside a pilot area; and a failure to have an operational warning bell.”
Although demand has declined at a time when many Chicagoans are still working from home, Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi said she is “encouraged” by the statistics and by “anecdotal reports from residents, advocates and city staff.”
“The lock-to cable requirement has significantly reduced the number of instances of devices blocking sidewalks,” Biagi was quoted as saying in a press release.
“But we are still getting too many reports of people improperly and unsafely riding scooters on sidewalks. We are working with the three scooter companies to provide additional education to riders about the importance of safe riding practices.”
To boost compliance and reduce sidewalk clutter, Biagi said the city will begin requiring the three vendors to place an “educational tag on each scooter” reminding riders of the sidewalk ban and “reinforcing the need to lock the scooter” to a fixed object at the end of each trip.
Bird, Lime and Spin have also been asked to “adjust how they deploy scooters to ensure that they do not take up all of the available space at bike racks,” the commissioner said.