New York City’s first e-scooter sharing program will launch in the East Bronx this summer. The Department of Transportation will allow three companies to drop 3,000 scooters in Eastchester, Coop-City and Morris Park, which anyone can access with an app, and pay a per-minute fee.
The use of electric scooters and electric bikes on city streets was made legal last year by the City Council, following legislation passed in Albany. The new regulations also allowed for an e-scooter sharing pilot program in NYC.
E-scooter sharing is available in cities around the world, and while the programs have been generally successful, some municipalities have grappled with problems ranging from injuries to discarded and vandalized scooters.
The e-scooters from the companies Bird, Lime and Veo must be unlocked with an app. For safety, users will have to complete a test online, will only be allowed to travel 10 miles per hour during their first 30 minutes and won’t be allowed to do their first ride in the evening.
After the half-hour training period, the scooters can go up to 15 miles per hour.
Users will pay $1 to unlock each scooter, and .39 cents a minute after that, except on the Lime scooters, which will charge $.30 a minute. When done with the ride, the dockless scooter can simply be left on the sidewalk.
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The city also plans to build more bike lanes in the East Bronx, but didn’t say exactly how many miles. It expects to build a protected bike lane along White Plains Road and Bronxdale Ave, and regular bike lanes on East 233rd Street and Eastchester Road, which would be usable for bikes and e-scooters.
The location of the e-scooter program was chosen so as not to interfere with the current Citibike expansion in the Bronx. The pilot covers 18-square miles where 570,000 people live, including 25,000 people living in public housing,according to the city.
“I asked for this pilot program to come to the Bronx and this is a ‘win’ for all Bronxites. Here, in the East Bronx, many people live in transit deserts with public transportation far away from their homes,” City Council Member Fernando Cabrera wrote in a statement provided by the Department of Transportation. “The Bronx was disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, making the need for affordable, accessible transportation that allows safe distancing for public health, extremely important.”
Next year, the city said it may double the number of scooters in the Bronx to up to 6,000, and expand the e-scooter share footprint to include the South Bronx neighborhoods of Soundview and Throggs Neck.
The rest of the city will have to wait for e-scooter sharing, until the Department of Transportation reviews how the Bronx pilot performed. The city will be examining parking behavior, trip patterns, and safety.
In addition to the standing scooters, there will be some scooters with seats for people with a disability as well.
“Truly inclusive micromobility must include the disability community. The e-scooter pilot puts disability at the forefront of these emerging new transit modes, which will be a model not only in New York City but around the world,” Victor Calise, Commissioner at the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) Commissioner, wrote in a statement provided by the city.
But some disability advocates, like Arthur Jacobs, President of NYC Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, point out that e-scooters can also create hazards for blind pedestrians.
“We look forward to working with the Department of Transportation and these companies to ensure the safety of blind pedestrians during this pilot through policies that avoid sidewalk clutter and the implementation of an audible indicator on all scooters,” Jacobs wrote in the statement provided by the city.