Portland Century - August 18th

City of Portland considering pilot of dockless electric scooters this summer

Posted by on May 17th, 2018 at 4:16 pm

Care to scoot?
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

In an attempt to ride the wave of a mobility revolution sweeping cities across the globe, the City of Portland has confirmed they are considering a launch of a program that would allow private companies to operate dockless e-scooters in the public right-of-way during a pilot period later this summer.

The scooters will be of the “dockless” variety, meaning they won’t need to be parked in a designated area or at a special kiosk. At least that’s how they work in most cities. Dockless e-scooters are newcomers in the shared mobility space and have only been launched in about four U.S. cities since last fall.

Details of the future Portland policy and potential operational restrictions private companies would have to abide by have not been made public yet. The Portland Bureau of Transportation has just started to talk about the program publicly.

The first public mention of the plans (that we know of) came Tuesday night when PBOT bike share program manager Steve Hoyt-McBeth was on the agenda of the monthly Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting. “The scooter share model is similar to dockless bike share,” read the agenda item. “Scooters are available for checkout in public space for short, one-way trips for a small fee and do not require any infrastructure to complete the trip.” Hoyt-McBeth wanted to ask the committee for specific guidance and feedback, “on electric scooter rental, including evaluation criteria and protecting pedestrian access and safety.”

Sidewalk space has put e-scooters in the eye of a media and political storm in other cities. San Francisco’s experience has been nothing short of a “saga“.

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I test rode one of these scooters back in March when one of the leading providers of dockless bikes and scooters, Lime, was in Portland to lay groundwork for a potential launch. My personal verdict: They are awesome! These scooters are fun and efficient was to move around.

In Portland, the sticking points will likely be around how to best integrate them into existing road and sidewalk uses. There are likely also to be concerns over equity. Activist and former mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone has been outspoken about the scooters on Twitter. Asked for a comment on this story, she had questions: “Portland’s downtown is already well-connected — do we need another mode there? What are the true costs and benefits to the public? Homeless people can’t occupy sidewalks but discarded scooters can?”

Michal Nakashimada (@MichaelNaka), a former product designer at urban mobility company Moovel, is a proponent of the scooters and told us he’s “excited” that Portland is moving forward. “I have been closely following dockless deployments in cities across the world, I’ve witnessed the enormous potential for dockless micro-mobility to replace car trips and connect people to regional transit systems,” Nakashimada shared with us via email today. “I would like to see PBOT develop a flexible framework that gives companies the pathway to increase their fleet sizes as they meet utilization, safety, equity and data sharing requirements. If the city mandates a fixed cap on the number of vehicles with no ability to grow inline with utilization rates, it can hinder companies from providing a viable transportation service, especially in communities of concern. My hope is to see city transportation officials and companies work closely together on this to create a safe, green, and viable transportation alternative in our city.”

For their part, PBOT is remaining tight-lipped for now. Communications Director John Brady did however tell us that they are considering a pilot of e-scooters sometime this summer. The details of the pilot program, such as how many companies would be invited, and how long the test would last, are still up in the air.

It’s noteworthy that PBOT is moving forward with dockless scooters and not dockless bikes. It appears they are still content to tweak their existing Biketown system, instead of embracing a new, truly dockless system from a third-party provider.

If this scooter pilot moves forward — and if PBOT gives companies enough elbow room to realize the potential of their service — it will be an interesting summer on the streets of Portland. Stay tuned.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

37 Comments
  • Avatar
    Billbowlrider May 17, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    No!!!!! Almost as bad as those segway things. Don’t do it Portland

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      J_R May 17, 2018 at 4:40 pm

      Worse than Segways.

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        Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 17, 2018 at 5:40 pm

        I don’t think so. I think if deployed properly they could open up a really efficient and fun and relatively eco-friendly way to get around. Sure as hell beats people driving and taking Uber/Lyft all over the place!

        Have you ridden one of them? They are waaay better than segways. Much easier to ride, faster and more stable.. And they make you look cool — the opposite of how you look on a segway.

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          Huey Lewis May 18, 2018 at 9:27 am

          Your cool gauge is damaged. Totally not working.

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            Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 18, 2018 at 10:58 am

            funny huey! I really don’t care what’s cool or not. We’re in a crisis with all the driving abuse going on in our cities. it’s an epidemic IMO and I’m willing to try just about anything to help cure people of it.

            And FWIW, scooters have been cool in cities for decades now. I recall being in Sydney in 1999 and very cool adults were riding Razor-type scooters all over the place. America is just backwards when it comes to vehicles/mobility because so many ppl are brainwashed into thinking driving is the only cool thing. Time to open up our eyes to what actually works! Instead of just following along with what the corporate overlords tell us. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but the lack of creatively in solving big problems is really messing America up right now on many fronts. I feel like this resistance to e-scooters is another example.

            I repeat: Driving doesn’t work! So let’s try biking! Let’s try aerial trams! Let’s try streetcars! Let’s try buses! Let’s try… Scooters! Bring it on!

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              Kyle Banerjee May 18, 2018 at 11:51 am

              Electric unicycles FTW!

              The size of a briefcase, they easily fit just about anywhere, are highly maneuverable, highly portable, and have “reasonable” range. Those with skilsz can even take stairs with them.

              These strike me as a real Portland thing, but I only encounter them in the wild only rarely (most recently this Tuesday, but zero in a typical week).

              If it weren’t for the fact that I enjoy exercise (and I’m too cheap, enjoy fast descents on bicycles, philosophically like to minimize my dependence on technology, don’t want to constantly bother with charging, and have doubts about their longevity) I’d get one.

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                X May 18, 2018 at 1:17 pm

                Cool yes. But what’s the failure mode? If a person attempts a hard stop and the device does not behave as expected the likely result is the back of their head hitting pavement.

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                Kyle Banerjee May 18, 2018 at 5:11 pm

                People for whom that is a realistic possibility might consider helmets — turns a potentially dangerous event into a nonevent. People lacking common sense and/or skills might consider another form of transportation.

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              Huey Lewis May 18, 2018 at 12:45 pm

              I find biking, walking and public transit pretty dang cool. Rearrange those into any order you prefer. I co-wrote “The Heart of Rock and Roll”, so if we’re gonna get into a “cool” pissing match, I think I know who comes out of top (also, I took a piss on camera in the film Short Cuts, so I think I know a little bit about pissing, too.)

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          Mike May 18, 2018 at 1:17 pm

          What about these things zipping around on sidewalks? Doesn’t seem safe at all.

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    Steve G May 17, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    I think this is GREAT news.

    There’s no question that e-scooters have issues, most of which are already starting to be managed through user education (including financial carrots and sticks) and better infrastructure. The main problems other cities have encountered have to do with where people sometimes ride them (on sidewalks) and where they’re sometimes parked (in inappropriate spots that block pedestrian and disabled access).

    On the other hand, it’s undeniable that e-scooters appeal to a lot of people who simply won’t ride a bike. If you don’t believe me, ask a friend who lives in San Francisco or San Diego. There are swarms of e-scooters all over both cities. And if it takes an e-scooter to get someone to do something other than drive a 4,000 vehicle for short trips in the city, we all win. Unlike car drivers, careless scooter riders — like cyclists — are unlikely to kill anyone other than maybe themselves. e-Scooters also barely pollute, and they take up about 10% as much space as a car.

    I think that one of the best outcomes from an influx of e-scooters will be that a wider cross-section of people — many of whom simply won’t ride a bike — will come to recognize the need for low-speed, protected scooter-and-bikeways. A few of them may even become advocates.

    The City should also extend a warm welcome to shared e-bikes. And e-skateboards. And e-unicycles. The more non-car modes we have on our streets, the more demand for low-speed, protected travel lanes we’ll see.

    Bring it!

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      Steve G May 18, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      Correction: 4,000 *pound* vehicle

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    Sam May 17, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Truly dockless bike and electric scooter sharing systems are a good thing. Especially in North Portland where a $20 fee is applied for parking outside Niketown’s service area.

    Electric scooter startups like Bird and Spin will use the Xiaomi M365 electric scooter ($500 on Amazon). They modify it so it can be unlocked by your phone and GPS tracked. These electric scooters cost $1/unlock + $0.15/min to ride. Limebike incentives users to “re-balance” bike distribution by providing a free ride to anyone willing to bring back an isolated bike.

    https://www.limebike.com/electric-scooter

    http://www.hayden-island.com/biking/

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    Jon May 18, 2018 at 8:20 am

    According to the internet the Xiaomi M365 will go 15.5 mph and has a range of 18.6 miles. As a point of reference 15 mph is a pace to run a 4 minute mile so I guess you could say it is human powered type speed unlike some of the ebikes I see. It is listed at 250W of power which is similar to a very fit cyclist. A world class cyclist can put out around 400W for an hour. https://electrek.co/2018/05/01/xiaomi-m365-electric-scooter-review/

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      X May 18, 2018 at 1:29 pm

      For most people 15 mph is basically a sprint. That won’t mix well with pedestrians considering that scooter users would have a mix of skill levels, reaction times, etc. Also some of them will be @$$ing around with their phones.

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        Steve G May 18, 2018 at 3:30 pm

        X –

        The fact that e-scooters are addictively fun — paired with the fact that they really DON’T mix well with pedestrians — are two of the most compelling things about electric scooters.

        Because if non-bikey people love them while pedestrians hate them on the sidewalks, guess what? We’ll suddenly have a lot of new advocates (scooter lovers and pedestrians alike) who recognize the need for more and better protected bikeways.

        Because the ideal habitat for e-scooters is also the best place for bikes and e-bikes: a nice, safe, dedicated (and protected) bike lane.

        Bring it!

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    Sam May 18, 2018 at 8:28 am

    While electric scooter startups like Bird and Spin will reportedly use the Xiaomi M365 electric scooter, Limebike apparently partners with Segway on their scooters which are supposed to provide longer range.

    Anyone khow how they get charged?

    https://www.bird.co/how
    https://www.spin.pm/
    https://www.limebike.com/electric-scooter
    https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/01/lime-partners-with-segway-to-build-electric-scooters

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    Sam May 18, 2018 at 8:43 am

    Nevermind. Lime Juicers pick up scooters at night, charge the battery, then redeploy the Lime-S out in the community. Lime says Juicers can earn up to $30+ per hour and $100+ per night collecting, charging and redistributing the electric scooters.

    https://web.limebike.com/juicer

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      turnips May 18, 2018 at 12:42 pm

      the ad I found on San Francisco craigslist says $12/scooter charged. might be different in other markets. without doing any actual math, that seems high. makes me wonder about the business model.

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    Kyle Banerjee May 18, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Interesting idea and more convenient than a bike for short hops. Also much easier to rebalance and pull out of service for maintenance than bikes. However, I suspect a major use of these will be as a substitute for walking rather than getting vehicles off the roads.

    My first thought was to wonder how many people hurt themselves using them. Scooters are easy to handle if you feel them, hard if you don’t. These aren’t nimble so people lacking skills and judgment can get hurt. On the plus side, these should fit in reasonably well with bicycle traffic though I assume people will also take them on crowded foot paths such as the waterfront.

    I think the question of whether we should provide more transit options that only bodied people with good balance and motor skills in the small and well served center can use is relevant.

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      Steve G May 18, 2018 at 12:27 pm

      Kyle-

      Walking speed is about 3 mph, whereas a scooter, at 15 mph is approximately 5x as fast, so I think the application is much broader than just replacing walking.

      Consider this: if someone is willing to walk 10 minutes to transit, the “walkshed” of a bus stop is a .5 mile radius. By contrast, the same transit stop’s 10-minute “scooter-shed” has about a 2.5 mile radius. That means that scooters could expand the “catchment area” of a MAX stop or bus transit station by 25 times! Why? Because the Area of a Circle = πr squared.

      I would think that Trimet would love to have Lime deploy scooters in a geofenced, roughly circular area that extends about 2.5 miles from every Max station — especially those in suburban areas. Especially around stations that have insufficient car parking.

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        Kyle Banerjee May 18, 2018 at 12:50 pm

        Agreed that scooters are much faster, your basic catchment figures, and that some people will use them for this purpose. However, it makes no sense to go 2 miles to catch the bus/MAX unless transit is taking you pretty far — it would be faster to go directly on the scooter. You have to wait for transit and it is very slow, so if you’re going the further distance, it makes it harder to give up the car.

        For this reason, I think chances of scooters replacing a significant amount of driving are not good. I would expect they’d cut into short car share trips though as they would be noticeably cheaper and not take much longer.

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          Steve G May 18, 2018 at 1:19 pm

          I agree.

          But it also depends on where they’re deployed. The MAX stations that I was imagining being surrounded by scooters would be toward the ends of the lines, in places like Hillsboro, Milwaukie, Gresham and at major hubs like Gateway, Beaverton Transit Center, etc. Maybe they could even help boost ridership on the WEX, or whatever that thing is called, that goes down to Tualatin and Wilsonville.

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    Eric Leifsdad May 18, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Require vendors to install a rack/charging station anywhere that scooters accumulate on the sidewalk and space is tight. Just like a bike corral, maybe plus a solar panel.

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    Joseph May 18, 2018 at 10:40 am

    This smells of a fad.

    The stability of riding a scooter is much less than riding a bike. I read your previous post about what it was like to ride one of these guys but I can’t see the advantages or even put them on the same playing field as a bike. I suppose, however, if one is as used to riding a scooter as much as riding a bike then that person might feel differently than me.

    And to be honest, I really prefer the Biketown system over dockless private systems like Ovo and Limebike. I was up in Seattle recently and those bikes are everywhere in the most random places. As for Biketown, I see people treating the bikes with a bit more respect. Even in May, being free to lock them anywhere, they don’t get in the way because they are usually locked at a bike rack.

    Please don’t support dockless private bike or scooter systems. The bikeshare system we have is great now and it would be better to focus on making it better.

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    Bald One May 18, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Race to the bottom! Rampant scooters will be the reason that City of Portland will impose speed limits on cyclists. We can’t have anyone on a path or sidewalk exceeding the unsafe speed of 8 mph if there are vulnerable sidewalk or MUP users nearby.

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    Vince May 18, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Yet another method of transportation that cannot be used without a smartphone.

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    Alex Supertramp May 19, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    i will say YES to anything that will make people abandon cars! Bikes, Mopeds, Scooters, Skateboards, Unicycles whatever 🙂

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    Eva May 20, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Please read recent stories about cities that have dockless electric scooters and the problems they cause. There are more of these stories recently, usually critical. Like this: Electric Scooters Are Causing Havoc. This Man Is Shrugging It Off. https://nyti.ms/2HfMvL7

    All forms of transit need to fit the existing ecosystem. Where is it safe to ride these? Where is it OK to leave them? What about the rising “bounty hunter” safety concerns around collecting and recharging them? What laws apply here?

    Portland does not have to bow to every so-called “disruptive” service that ignores how cities work and must be regulated for safety and equity. Capitalism is not a good enough reason to hand over our public lanes to just anyone, nor is convenience. Is there definite proof that our existing “last mile” solution Biketown is actually used and needed by city residents more than tourists? If not, I see no reason to make Bay Area companies even richer serving our tourists and “disrupting” people who live and work near or in the city center.

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      Phil Richman May 21, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      Dockless cars

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    Eric Ivy May 21, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    I just rode the Lime scooters on Oahu and loved them. The rear brake is strong enough to do skids and they are light enough to bunny-hop. Funtastic. Like Jonathon said, better than a Lyft or Uber which I often use on work trips so I don’t have to rent a car.
    I hate walking. It takes forever. If there’s a bikeshare or scooter I’M TAKING IT!
    Steering is a bit twitchy and a friend took a spill turning down a driveway with a big lip.

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    Steve G May 21, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    Eric- I think the first model was a rush job. The new ones are probably quite a bit better:

    https://www.limebike.com/blog/lime-announces-new-name-new-electric-scooter-and-3-million-rides

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    mark smith May 21, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    Whatever we do, let’s make sure people only have one choice of wheeled travel-bicycles. We can’t have people having choices in the non motorized space. I mean, how could we be a monolithic group brow beating all other forms of non motorized travel?

    It’s just best we keep heralding the car.

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    Phil Richman May 24, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    How many scooters are we talking about here? What is the right number? Is 1,000 too many or not enough? 10,000? BikeTown has 1000 bikes, but covers a limited area. How big should the coverage area be for scooter sharing?

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    Bennie August 1, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Fast forward to August…Just today I was nearly ran over by one of these scooters on a sidewalk. Do we need to have helmets to be pedestrians nowadays?

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    rachel August 1, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    …it was my understanding they are only allowed on the sidewalk if they are being walked :How will this be enforced since we (don’t) really have adequate support for traffic speeding? What about the Eastside Esplanade and the Springwater trail?

    Here’s the PBOT standards: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/691854

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    Eva August 1, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    If you have complaints or feedback on the dockless electric scooter pilot program, here’s how to share that: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/77294

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