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People love scooters and they’re replacing car trips says City of Portland survey

Posted by on October 22nd, 2018 at 10:34 am

(Photo: City of Portland)

“The results suggest scooters are a popular new transit option for Portlanders and visitors alike,” reads a statement released today by the Portland Bureau of Transportation based on a survey of scooter users. 4,500 people responded to the questionnaire which asked 75,000 people about riding habits, safety behaviors, knowledge of riding laws, and more.

Here are the key findings as shared by PBOT:

Portlanders are using e-scooters for transportation and recreation. Nearly a third (30 percent) of the Portlanders who responded to the survey said they most frequently used e-scooters to commute – to get to work, school, or a work-related meeting. Another third (28 percent) stated they most frequently used e-scooters for fun/recreation.

E-scooters are popular with local users. Eighty-five percent of Portlanders said they were “extremely” or “very likely” to recommend e-scooters to a friend.

E-scooters are replacing automobile trips. Thinking of their last e-scooter trip, 34 percent of Portlanders said they would have driven a personal car (19 percent) or hailed a taxi, Uber or Lyft (15 percent).

The auto trip replacement numbers are even higher among tourists and visitors (48 percent). Thinking of their last e-scooter trip, 34 percent of visitors would have taken a taxi, Uber or Lyft, and 14 percent would have driven a personal vehicle had e-scooters not been available.

Among all respondents, e-scooters appear to be more popular among men (62 percent) than women (36 percent). In response to the question, “What gender do you identify with?”, 62 percent of respondents said “man”, and 36 respondents said “woman”.


All respondents – Portlanders and visitors – prefer to ride e-scooters on the street, in the bike lane. Riders’ stated preference was for the bike lane over even off-street trails. Riding on sidewalks was users’ least preferred option.

E-scooters are bringing new Portlanders to the bike lane. Forty-five percent of survey respondents reported “never” biking and 78 percent had never used BIKETOWN prior to using e-scooters.

Portlanders are reducing or considering reducing their auto ownership due to e-scooters. Six percent of users report getting rid of a car because of e-scooters and another 16 percent have considered it.

There’s still work to do when it comes to keeping people out of park paths and trails. The survey found that only 34 percent of riders knew it was illegal to ride in Waterfront Park.

This survey comes out just a week after The Oregonian reported serious concerns from disability rights advocates about scooters and the behavior of the people who ride them.

Three companies — Bird, Skip, and Lime — are currently operating scooters in Portland as part of a pilot program. The scooters have been on the streets since the end of July and as of October 11th, there have been 472,069 trips taken on them with an average trip length of 1.2 miles. The pilot period will end November 20th.

In response to the survey, Bird posted on Twitter today that, “It has been an honor serving the City of Portland and we look forward to continue partnering to get cars off the road and reduce carbon emissions!”

You can read all the survey responses on PBOT’s website.

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

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65 thoughts on “People love scooters and they’re replacing car trips says City of Portland survey”

  1. Avatar Rh says:

    “Since October 11th, there have been 472,069 trips taken on the scooters”

    Wow! That’s incredible! It means they are being used 40,000 times per day.

    1. haha.. that was a mistake. Should have typed “As of October 11th” of course.

  2. Avatar B. Carfree says:

    Omg, that article about the scofflaw scooter riders had me checking to make sure it wasn’t the Onion. In a city that does essentially zero traffic law enforcement, with the expected fatal results, people actually have their knickers in a twist over the fact that people ride scooters like they drive cars (with near-zero regard for or knowledge of the governing laws). Astounding, to say the least.

    People are going to go from place to place. Almost no one always follows the law perfectly while doing so, and some people pretty much never do. Which is better, having them use a scooter or a car? Also, will scofflaws be easier to successfully engage when they are in two-ton SUV’s, or on a thirty-pound scooter exposed to the elements? Personally, I’d rather dodge scooters on the sidewalk all day long if it means a few less motorists.

    1. Avatar q says:

      Good point about engaging. I was walking in the Pearl District yesterday. Lots of scooters, including on sidewalks, but they’re right there in the open, making eye contact and talking to other people they encounter. One apologized for zipping by too close (in his opinion, I thought it was fine) to my dog. It’s a whole different feeling than with cars, where it’s tough to make eye contact or talk with drivers. And I’d guess scooter riders don’t feel anonymous the way drivers do.

  3. Avatar bikeninja says:

    When they first came to town I was a scooter curmudgeon. But even though I have never ridden one I am now a believer in their effectiveness as car-free transportation. I now see more people of all backgrounds riding them ( scooter bro is no longer an accurate stereotype). Don’t get me wrong, I still think human powered bikes are at the top of the pyramid of sustainability , usefulness and personal transformation but these e-scooters beat the heck out of petro-jalopies in any form. The addition all these new human scaled riders seems to be calming traffic where I ride and causing auto users to be more careful. Many of the people riding them seem genuinely happy to be out from inside the wheeled metal cage they were used to and discovering that one can move around in the world without a living room on wheels. I think these will help lead to a world without cars so I am now gung-ho on the scooter revolution. Bring em on.

    1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      For any particular trip, this is certainly true. I’m told, however, that the scooters have a relatively short lifespan, and when you factor in the hidden driving associate with charging the devices, it is not so clear.

      I’d love to see a full lifecycle system-level assessment of the environmental impacts of scooters vs. whatever level of car drivership/ownership they offset. I’m betting they come out ahead, but not by much.

      1. Avatar matchupancakes says:

        Yes, the hidden driving that enables scooters via overnight collection, charging, and redistribution is not ideal; however, the hours during which collection and distribution ideally occur are not during peak traffic hours. That is fantastic and it enables another way for people to get around without a car during these peak traffic hours. Can it be improved? Absolutely. Is it better than what existed at the start of the year? Yes!

        1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

          Well, there is also the energy cost of manufacture and lifespan of the scooters. I’m told they don’t live long, so it may take several dozen scooters to replace one car over its lifetime.

          And if, say, 10% of scooter trips are replacing car trips, and they need to be charged after 2.5 trips, and one car trip can service 4 scooters, then the number of car trips needed to support the scooters will be the same as the number of car trips saved by the scooters. These numbers are likely wrong, but not hugely so.

          I’d love to see a report that accounts for all the costs, not just the most visible ones.

          1. Avatar bikeninja says:

            I expect this to be corrected in the near future when a number of trends will come together to make juicing scooters by cargo bike practical and fun. The upcoming wave of apartment completions all have commercial space on the first floors. This will combine with the ongoing bloodbath in brick and mortar retail ( nationwide) and the shake-out in cannabis retailers to deliver huge quantities of ground floor commercial space at good prices. Entrepreneurs will rent and convert these to “juicer nightclubs”. Cargo bike riding juicers will gather up scooters and then only have a short way to go to charge them at the nearest juicer nightclub. These will provide charging stations in exchange for a membership fee. The big scooter companies will compete to sponser these late night juicer hangouts outdoing each other with lavish perks and surroundings to encourage juicers to frequent their brand of scooters. Remember you heard it here first.

            1. Avatar 9watts says:


              1.2 mile average trip length(!)
              We’re actually celebrating something that requires digging up lithium half way around the globe to (briefly) power life lifestyle markers. What happened to, oh I don’t know, walking, skipping, skateboarding, biking? None of those require multinationals, IPOs, Chinese factories, lithium mining, or any of the other crap that make up these short-lived gadgets.


              1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                Biking certainly involves Chinese factories, and may well involve some of that other stuff too.

              2. Avatar 9watts says:

                You never seem to tire of the #false equivalencies.

                The point I was trying to make is that an e-scooter is a throwaway item made mostly of plastic and powered via lithium. My hunch is that the whole thing is manufactured in China. To suggest that a bike is in the same league seems like a real stretch to me.

                I suppose one could buy a new (throwaway) bike with comparable Chinese content, but why would I do that? My bikes are all thirty to thirty-five years old, and I have no reason to think they won’t last another thirty years, or perhaps a lot more. The only parts that wear out, and that would, conceivably be replaced from a Chinese factory would be cables, chains, tubes, tires, & brake pads. I don’t know enough about where those come from, but you may be right that they’re made in China. I replace these so rarely that I’ve not yet made a study of where they come from. Despite your stock assertions in the comments here there actually are meaningful differences between products, choices, paths, alternatives. To insist that, no, everything has some Chinese content is to me an unhelpful reductio ad absurdum, is defeatist.

              3. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                May I suggest not using references to Chinese goods as a shorthand for “throwaway”? They make lots of good stuff, some of which we are no longer capable of making ourselves.

              4. Avatar 9watts says:

                You are dodging.

                Please explain the point of splitting these hairs.

                Much could be said about how our economy, our manufacturing, came to be hollowed out by half a century of pursuing global trade—which itself relies utterly on cheap fossil fuels—and the concomitant race to the bottom in wages, product quality, and proliferation of plastic bits clogging up our oceans, but what does this history have to do with your glib assertion that e-scooters are no worse than bikes?

              5. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                I never said, suggested, or implied that e-scooters are no worse than bikes. I was objecting the grounds on which you were attacking them, specifically the part about Chinese manufacture.

                I generally agree that bikes are more durable ahd have lower impact, though I think the situation is far more nuanced when you consider that those two modes appeal to different but overlapping segments of the population, and what alternatives those segments might use if scooters were unavailable.

                I think it’s far from clear that scooters are the answer to… anything. But they might be.

              6. Avatar 9watts says:

                “I never said, suggested, or implied that e-scooters are no worse than bikes.”

                You most certainly did.

                “I was objecting the grounds on which you were attacking them, specifically the part about Chinese manufacture.”

                You keep taking us down rabbit holes, and then when confronted with your words you equivocate, split hairs, lose perspective. And in this case I think you are simply wrong.

                Here again is my statement you felt compelled to disagree with:
                “None of those [walking, skipping, skateboarding, biking] require multinationals, IPOs, Chinese factories, lithium mining, or any of the other crap that make up these short-lived gadgets.”

              7. Avatar Dan A says:

                Splitting hairs is a great way to drive up the number of comments. HK has put up 25% of the total comments on the 5 ‘hot topics’, and is on pace to do it again in this article. 9watts, you’re just going to have to try harder.

              8. Avatar 9watts says:

                OK, you win, Dan A. 🙂

              9. Avatar Middle of The Road Guy says:

                Same conclusion here.

            2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

              Will the juicer clubs have dog wash stations?

            3. Avatar was carless says:

              Considering that one of those scooters only weighs about 40 pounds, if we assume that 100% of the scooter is nasty nasty lithium (which is a super common element in the Earth’s crust, on the order of oxygen… I think you should villanize the nickel that makes up a large % of li-ion batteries)… it would take 16.5 scooters to make up the same amount of material in a Nissan Leaf (or 30 scooters per Tesla battery pack).

              So they are actually pretty good for a short-lived transportation device for the lazy people of America.

              However, I lay the blame of the short lifespan of the scooters in large part due to people who purposefully abuse and destroy the scooters. We haven’t witnessed that kind of problem in Portland, so I would be willing to bet they will last many times longer than in the Bay Area or NYC.

              1. Avatar 9watts says:

                I suggest you read the article in Wired on lithium I copied above. Lithium’s theoretical abundance is not a good measure of what it takes to make it availabele for short lived batteries. There’s more than enough wind that could be harnessed, and abundant sunshine too; but that doesn’t in and of itself solve our energy predicament.

          2. Avatar Danny says:

            On the low end the scooters have a range of 15-20 miles per charge. The newer versions by Lime can go nearly 40 miles per charge. The most recent data that I recall from the city said the average trip was about 1.2 miles. So we are talking somewhere between 12 and 30 trips between charges.

            They definitely don’t last that long right now. Sometimes just a couple hundred rides. That is changing though.

            The thing to remember is that now that all of these companies are now starting to focus more on purpose built scooters rather than the off the shelf scooters they started with. Things like being able to change out the battery on the street vs taking the whole scooter somewhere to recharge it will massively impact the operations. A couple of techs in a sprinter van with a load of swappable batteries could handle dozens of scooters in a night.

            here’s a story about Lime’s new model.

        2. Avatar soren says:

          I’ve seen a number of people collecting scooters by bike…

  4. Noticing some serious cherry-picking the data that here. Yes, 34 % of people say they would have taken a car/cab if they hadn’t e-scootered. But 45% say they would have biked or walked. So you could just as well say that scooters are replacing walk and bike trips (and in 7.5% of cases induce trips that otherwise wouldn’t have been made).

    1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      Pie. Every time.

    2. Avatar pruss2ny says:

      other fun facts courtesy of cherry picking the data:
      60% of respondents have either never ridden a scooter, rode only once, or rode very rarely.
      50% don’t understand scooter laws, but only 7% understand that they don’t
      5% cited exercise as a reason for riding, which means 5% are idiots.

    3. Avatar DSKJ says:

      Not only that, but where is the statistic about whether the scooter user would’ve taken TRANSIT instead? It is entirely missing. Perhaps because PBOT didn’t even include that option in the survey?

  5. Avatar Jonathan Radmacher says:

    It seems a little odd to publish survey results without any information about the survey itself. How was it distributed? How many did not respond?

    1. Avatar Gary B says:

      “4,500 people responded to the questionnaire which asked 75,000 people…”

    2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      I believe it was an email survey sent to people who signed up for scooter accounts.

    3. Avatar q says:

      Yes. And it was aimed at, and written for, people who had already used scooters. It wasn’t set up so you could even take it if you hadn’t.

      The survey makes scooters sound pretty good, but on the other hand 4,500 respondents is way less than 1% of the city’s population. And I’d guess people who bothered responding are probably among the more enthusiastic of the scooter users.

    4. Avatar DSKJ says:

      It’s a classic sampling problem. PBOT is using a survey sent *only* to scooter users–with zero input from anyone else who might have opinions about scooter use and scooter users’ behaviors–to do boosterism for….more scooters.

  6. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

    2 to 1 is a much easier transition than 1 to 0, especially for a family.

  7. Avatar resopmok says:

    We’re still waiting for the Winter rain to start, so we’ll see how that affects riding habits as well. I think it’s important to get enough data before celebrating too much, but it is heartening to see them replacing at least some motor vehicle trips.. Still is too expensive for my tastes, especially when I own a bicycle that I ride for primary transportation anyway.

  8. Avatar CaptainKarma says:

    I would use one a LOT for neighborhood trips *if* I owned it and could secure it at the destination. I don’t care to hunt one down and tie-in my financial identity with yet another corporation. I will ride my bicycle.

  9. Avatar CaptainKarma says:

    I would ride a LOT if I owned it and could secure it at the destination. I don’t care to tie in my credit with yet another corporation, and “renting” with recurring fees rankles me to no end.

    1. Avatar SilkySlim says:

      If only there was a way to buy an electric scooter for oneself. Alas….

      1. Avatar John Liu says:

        Apparently you can fish for one – in the Willamette.

  10. Avatar pruss2ny says:

    “Six percent of users report getting rid of a car because of e-scooters”

    those must have been pretty sweet rides to get tossed aside in favor of a 4mo pilot program of scooters. BMW must be reeling.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      Exactly. The survey was dreadful, leading, transparently flattering both those taking it and those conducting it—giving everyone opportunities to feel virtuous—and we should not draw any conclusions from it.

  11. Avatar chris says:

    too bad you need a smartphone to use one, they look fun. I love my $20 every 90 days tracfone, if I need the internet, I use my laptop.

  12. Avatar John Liu says:

    The “key facts” highlighted seem selected to promote e-scooters.

    The following facts are equally “key” but were omitted:

    – 55% said if an e-scooter had not been available for their last scooter trip, they would have walked, bused, or ridden a bike. That is higher than the 35.5% who said they would have driven or ridden in a car. Suggests e-scooters are replacing active transportation/transit more than they are replacing cars.

    – 28% said they use BIKETOWN less because of e-scooters. That is higher than the 18.6% of people who said they used BIKETOWN before the e-scooters arrived. Suggests almost everyone who uses e-scooters now uses BIKETOWN less.

    I say “suggests” because what is missing is how the responses look for frequent e-scooter riders vs those who have only ridden once or who ride less than once a week. What the former do is a lot more important than what the latter do.

    1. The last scooter trip I took was because BIKETOWN has been on the fritz and I was stranded after the BIKETOWN I rode to the eastside was “in repair” for no reason and then the next closest one had a flat after I checked it out.

      It’s fine if scooters are replacing some shorter transit/bike/walking trips. Car trips are the problem around here.

      Also worth noting that BIKETOWN has been totally screwed up since almost the exact time these scooters landed, so I can’t blame anyone for using BIKETOWN less in the last 2+ months (and I LOVE BIKETOWN)

    2. Avatar soren says:

      biketown has become increasingly unuseable due to chronic electronic/mechanical issues. of course this was bound to happen when portland created a public system but refused to dedicate any of its public revenue to this system.

      you get what you pay for, portland!

    3. Avatar DSKJ says:

      I worry that PBOT sees scooters as the hot, sexy new toy, and that scooters will cause PBOT to ignore and fail to invest in expanding Biketown. That would be tragic.

      1. Avatar 9watts says:

        “I worry that PBOT sees scooters as the hot, sexy new toy, and that scooters will cause PBOT to ignore and fail to invest in expanding Biketown. That would be tragic.”

        I’m sorry to break it to you, but this is how obsolescence works: e-scooters *are* the newest hot, sexy toy, which superseded the previous hot, sexy toy which was Biketown. Soon something else will supersede the e-scooters, and all previous iterations will end up in the landfill or shredder.

        Stick with your own bike; no need to breathlessly chase the newest widget. With obsolescence everyone loses.

      2. Avatar soren says:

        “On Tuesday night during a joint meeting of the City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees, Commissioner Saltzman…added, “But I still don’t want to fund it with city money.””

  13. Avatar Todd Boulanger says:

    It would be very helpful for PBoT to resurvey these same participants during the winter…and see what their long term modal habits are.

  14. Avatar Zodizod says:

    I’m honestly stumped on the prefer to ride in the road… as I have probably seen upwards of 200 on the sidewalk and maybe 2 on the road. Prefer but don’t actually ride that way?

  15. Avatar 9watts says:

    Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves, again?

    It seems like as soon as lithium batteries are involved we here at bikeportland forget to exercise due diligence. Just last month I thought we had more or less agreed that the survey, the results of which is causing us to congratulate ourselves here today, was dreadful, poorly written; that we might want to be careful drawing any conclusions from it.

    1. Avatar q says:

      In the interest of reassuring you, I see quite a bit of skepticism in the comments. The article itself may sound pro-scooter at a quick glance, but it’s much less so when you see that it’s reporting mainly on what PBOT is claiming the survey says (e.g. headline starts out with “People love scooters and they’re replacing car trips…” but that’s followed with “… says City of Portland survey”.

      On the other hand, I get the feeling–first from the survey questions, and the fact that it was created really only for scooter users to respond to, and now from how PBOT seems to be interpreting the results–that PBOT is deceiving itself and misleading everyone else as to how successful the scooter program has been.

  16. Avatar Peter W says:

    Perhaps time to start thinking about adding scooter lanes and removing excess general lanes.

    Otherwise, we’ll just replace local auto traffic (slowly shifting to scooters, bikes, transit, etc) with the freeway-fueled traffic Vancouver’s paper would prefer† by bringing back that zombie highway monstrosity, the CRC.

    † Sans-lightrail, even!

  17. Avatar Mike Quigley says:

    As long as Washington doesn’t want to help pay for CRC, and opposes light rail, it won’t be built. Neither Knute or Kate will raise taxes to pay for it. Let it be until The Big One takes it out, then see what, if anything, rises from the ashes.

  18. Avatar John Liu says:

    The other problem with this survey is that PBOT isn’t surveying the people who are affected by e-scooters.

    Where was the survey to be filled out by pedestrians, cyclists, and others who are not e-scooter users?

    It is as if PBOT did a roadway project by taking input only from SUV drivers.

  19. Avatar soren says:

    No one uses scooters anymore, they are never available…

    I gave up on scooters because it took more time to find an available one than to walk to my destination.

    Also, the complaints of those who feel victimized by scooters while biking near ~5 ton air toxic-spewing climate-destroying deathmobiles is excellent schadenfreude.

    1. Avatar Middle of The Road Guy says:

      I was waiting for the term “deathmobile” to be used. Thanks!

  20. Avatar Kathleen McDade says:

    So now can we have Lime BIKES? And also Biketown in East Portland? The scooters are getting plenty of use here, as far as I can tell, so why not bikes? (also I tried riding a Bird scooter and I haaaaaated it, but I’m glad it works for others)

  21. Avatar Jim Lee says:

    BIKETOWN apparently is following Leah into oblivion…

    …pursued by escoots.

  22. Avatar Pat Lowell says:

    I ride my bike to/from downtown every day and find scooter rides to be a scourge. Most have no idea how to behave in traffic, nor do they respect peds when they’re (frequently) riding on the sidewalk. I’ve had more close calls with scooters since the pilot started than I have with cars over the past year of daily riding.

    1. Avatar DSKJ says:

      I don’t personally like these scooters, but I would be willing to accept them as part of the mix, *IF* the city could somehow effectively keep scooter users from driving on sidewalks and on park trails. But they aren’t even trying. The massive, flagrant disregard by a significant proportion of scooter users for pedestrian safety is highly disturbing. PBOT should not renew/extend the contract unless it is willing to charge the companies a meaningful fee per use to fund a *major* public education/social marketing campaign to shame and stigmatize such uses. We don’t accept Vespas or motorcycles on the sidewalk, and e-scooters do NOT belong there either.

  23. Avatar jack sprat says:

    In the interest of reassuring you, I see quite a bit of skepticism in the comments. The article itself may sound pro-scooter at a quick glance, but it’s much less so when you see that it’s reporting mainly on what PBOT is claiming the survey says (e.g. headline starts out with “People love scooters and they’re replacing car trips…” but that’s followed with “… says City of Portland survey”.On the other hand, I get the feeling–first from the survey questions, and the fact that it was created really only for scooter users to respond to, and now from how PBOT seems to be interpreting the results–that PBOT is deceiving itself and misleading everyone else as to how successful the scooter program has been.Recommended 7

    Uh, no, the title remains “People love … says … survey.”

    Here’s a far more accurate title: “Users love scooters and say they are replacing car trips, says City of Portland survey of scooter users”

    1. Avatar q says:

      I don’t understand your comment. The title says, “People love scooters and they’re replacing car trips says City of Portland survey” which is exactly what I said it says.

      You say, “Uh, no, the title remains “People love … says … survey.” In other words, you’re telling me “no” followed by repeating exactly what I said it says. That doesn’t make any sense.

      Beyond that, I agree it’s a survey of scooter users. In fact I said that in my comment. I’d guess Jonathan might have added that, too, if he’d wanted a title that long. But his concise title is totally accurate.

  24. Avatar Mark Reber says:

    I’ve become a grudging, but qualified, supporter of scooters. I still regard them with skepticism and my objections, which can be addressed by the city if they have it has the will, are like many of the comments above. The biggest one, and it involves enforcement, not education. Keep them off the sidewalks. I’ve been buzzed several times by scooter riders who blithely carry on even after you try to talk to them, i.e. educate. Yes, we need more education, but that is insufficient. I’d like the parked scooters to not be clogging up public space as well, but the major problems I have observed are users driving them on sidewalks, in bike lanes in the wrong direction.

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