CHICAGO – The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) released a report today evaluating the City’s 2020 electric scooter pilot program that found equity goals were achieved and complaints decreased proportionately when compared to an earlier pilot in 2019.
Based on the findings in the study, CDOT will work with City Council to schedule a subject-matter hearing on the topic of e-scooters. A hearing will give a chance for a meaningful and informed public dialogue about the two pilots and help chart a path forward for the micro-mobility devices in Chicago.
“The City is committed to providing equitable, accessible, affordable, and sustainable transportation options for all of our residents and visitors. We are especially focused on providing more options to those with limited transportation access,” said CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi. “CDOT looks forward to working with City Council to craft programs that can provide mobility benefits throughout the city in a responsible and manageable way.”
“The two e-scooter pilot programs show there is a demand throughout Chicago for new transportation options,” said 21st Ward Alderman Howard B. Brookins, Chair of the Transportation & Public Way Committee. “However, we have also learned, that any authorization of e-scooters needs to be through an accountable and well-managed program that ensures that they benefit all Chicagoans. I look forward to working with my colleagues to schedule a hearing to explore the results of the second pilot.”
“We have learned from the e-scooters pilots that have value as a convenient and green transportation option for residents and visitors to Chicago,” said 27th Ward Alderman Howard Burnett, Chair of the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety. “But any program that we authorize needs to focus on ensuring that vendors are committed to equity and safety in all their operations.”
“The e-scooter pilots were worthwhile and showed that many residents of my ward found them useful,” said 37th Ward Alderman Emma Mitts, Chair of the Committee on License and Consumer Protection. “We also learned that we need a system that carefully manages supply and demand to ensure a balance between coverage, accessibility and equity.”
Compared to the 2019 pilot, 311 complaints were down 75 percent in the 2020 pilot in which three scooter vendors logged about 540,000 rides from August through December. City officials believe that a new requirement to lock scooters to a fixed object helped to reduce sidewalk clutter and reduce negative impacts on people with disabilities.
A survey found that e-scooter riders and non-riders had strongly differing opinions about the devices: 88 percent of e-scooter riders said they think that scooters should be a part of Chicago’s transportation system, while less than a third of non-riders agreed; 65 percent of non-riders believe they should not be a transportation option in Chicago.
In the 2020 pilot, the City required 50% of all scooters be placed in neighborhoods on the south and west sides, and all of the vendors eventually reached compliance. Almost a quarter of all rides were taken in the equity zones.
Several technologies and features tested in 2020 were successful at managing e-scooter operational issues, particularly geo-fencing which slowed down and ultimately stopped scooters when they entered a disallowed area. There was also a requirement for all scooters to have a cable-locking mechanism so that scooters had to be locked to bike racks, light poles and street signs to end a ride.
The two pilots were conducted under an Emerging Business Permit issued by the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs (BACP) that expires in June 2021. As future pilots under this program are not possible, the City will explore with City Council, advocates, and the community the future of a longer-term program.
From August to December, 2020, three companies – Bird, Lime, and Spin – were allowed to operate under the BACP Emerging Business Permit originally issued in 2019. Those three companies were authorized to deploy a total of 10,000 e-scooters to Chicago and were allowed to operate citywide, except for downtown, on the 606 Trail and along the Lakefront Trail. Despite the 10,000 scooter limit, an average of 7,415 scooters were available each day. The area covered by the second pilot was 212 square miles, about four times the size of the
Key findings from the evaluation include:
- There were 540,000 trips that were reported in 2020 compared to 665,000 trips in the 2019.
- The average trip distance was 2.1 miles and average trip duration was 18.5 minutes.
- Based on a survey of riders performed by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Translab, riders claimed that walking and biking were the most likely alternatives if e-scooters were not available. However, approximately 30% of riders said they would have driven or taken a ride-hail service if scooters were not available.
- The city received fewer complaints related to the 2020 pilot than in 2019. For example, reports to 311 dropped 75% when factoring in the increased number of devices.
- The 2020 pilot required that e-scooters be locked to public bike racks and poles using an integrated cable. This requirement appears to have been a major reason for improved parking compliance and a decrease in sidewalk clutter.
- The 2020 pilot utilized an Equity Priority Area, requiring the companies to place 50% of all e-scooters in zones across the south and west sides. All vendors eventually reached compliance and 90% of the Equity Priority Area was within a 5-minute walk of an e-scooter on average.
- About 23 percent of scooter trips originated in the Equity Priority Area located on the city’s south and west sides.
- The rate of e-scooter related injuries reported by Chicago area hospitals during the pilot period was 0.27 per 100,000 trips, compared to a slightly lower rate of 0.23 in 2019. Of the 171 reported emergency department visits, 93 percent affected riders and 5 percent were pedestrians injured by a rider.
- The most common complaints from stakeholders and residents was sidewalk riding and too many scooters parked in one place.
Based on the information collected from the two pilot projects, CDOT believes that micro-mobility programs have value in providing Chicagoans an accessible and affordable mobility option that helps reduce congestion and supports public transit. These pilots, however, have also shown us that if an e-scooter program is managed effectively under an accountable and transparent business arrangement, the City can ensure that e-scooters are a benefit to all Chicagoans. The refinements in the 2020 pilot showed that it is possible to effectively limit sidewalk clutter and other public nuisances.
The Mayor’s Office, CDOT and other relevant City departments are committed to working with City Council and engaging the public and key stakeholders in the development of future micro-mobility policies and programs.
To read the full evaluation, please visit www.chicago.gov/scooters .