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Portland’s e-scooter pilot ends tomorrow (and that’s too bad)

Posted by on November 19th, 2018 at 2:46 pm

The sun is about to set on scooters.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

It was fun while it lasted.

The end of the line has come for Portland’s electric scooters. The pilot started back in July and — judging from comments by Bureau of Transportation staff in a Willamette Week story published yesterday — PBOT seems likely to keep their promise of officially ending it sometime this week.

The scooters hit the streets on July 23rd. For the most part, the program has been a huge success. It’s really a shame it has to end like this.

Remember before they launched? There were all manner of crazy predictions about how terrible it would be. One of our local weeklies published a story that referenced the “zombie apocalypse” and likened the presence of scooters to an “invasion,” peppering the story with anecdotes about crashes and cluttered sidewalks that were all but unusable.

None of that stuff really came true.

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Better Naito worked; but we ended it. The scooter program has been a success; but we plan to end that too.

While there are definitely kinks to work out (that’s what a pilot is for), with nearly 700,000 trips in just four months, the 2,000 scooters have changed mobility in Portland for the better. A survey of more than 4,500 scooter users showed them to be wildly popular and used in a way that aligns with nearly all of the City of Portland’s adopted transportation goals.

The scooter companies (not surprisingly) are begging PBOT to extend the pilot. Scooters have been very controversial in Long Beach, California; but officials there decided to prolong the test period for three months while they address how best to regulate them.

As we saw with strong support from City Council for the Central City in Motion plan last week, the City of Portland wants people to drive less and use more efficient, climate-friendly, and safer ways to move around. The scooters tick all those boxes. And now, just as people have begun to integrate them into their lives, the scooters will disappear.

As for what happens next, PBOT says they’ll share findings from all the data and public input they’ve gathered and make them public in early 2019. “The bureau will consider community input and data findings on e-scooters in Portland, and we look forward to learning from the findings to evaluate and inform a potential second pilot program in 2019,” said the agency in a statement.

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

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Chris Anderson
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Chris Anderson

It’s my impression the scooters took cars off the road, and increased driver vigilance. I would like to see what happens if the scooter program allowed unlimited alternatives mobility devices for each vendor (as long as they follow basic guidelines about not letting broken scooters linger on the streets etc.)

We’ll know the future is here when arrangements of electric motors in ways we haven’t thought of start getting popular. Ask a bunch of first-graders what they would build from the scooter part set, I bet there some wild ideas in there with it would make a splash in the market.

soren
Guest
soren

“the City of Portland wants people to drive less and use more efficient, climate-friendly, and safer ways to move around”

i disagree. this city is great at passing “plans” but when it comes to actually doing the work that disincentivize single occupancy vehicle use and incentivizing alternative modes, portland is unambiguously failing. bike mode share has dropped by ~13% in the past few years and per capita transit use has also plummeted. meanwhile, the number of registered motorvehicles in the portland area has increased sharply.

perhaps the best illustration of portland’s car-centrism is the way uber and lyft have been given carte blanche to dramatically increase congestion, pollution, and compete with public transit while e-scooter programs (that lack these negative externalities) have been abruptly cancelled following a successful trial period.

apparently pbot views the thousands of uber and lyft vehicles trolling portland’s neighborhood greenways as a benefit while people using e-scooters are seens as some sort of “tech bro” scourge that must be subjected to more rounds of “outreach” and public discourse before they are allowed to become bonafide “traffic”. imo, pbot’s reluctance to “approve” alternative transportation modes this has nothing to do with “tech bros” (users of scooters have proven to be remarkably diverse) and everything to do with pbot’s climate-change-denying car-centrism.

RH
Guest
RH

Loved the scooters! They were like 2,000 deer randomly scattered around the city. They caused drivers to be on the lookout and to be more aware of their surroundings…no one wants to hit a deer….no one wants to hit a scooter.

EmilGJ
Guest
EmilGJ

HUZZAH

HALLELUJAH

PRAISE BE

MY PRAYERS ARE ANSWERED, etc. et al. ad infinitum.

so relieved to see these gone for however long, YASSSSSSS.

jered
Guest
jered

I started as a hater, but they worked out pretty darn well. I’m gonna miss those scooters.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Too bad. Portland is like most of the rest of America. Desperately trying to hang onto the past. Desperately trying to avoid facing the future. And with an educational system that ranks 17th in the developed world, can you say, watch out below!? Of course you can.

soren
Guest
soren

“PBOT considers second pilot in 2019
…we look forward to learning from the findings to evaluate and inform a potential second pilot program in 2019.”

https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/ORPORTLAND/bulletins/21c9f16

When is PBOT going to hold some pilot studies on whether Uber, Lyft, and other TNCs are compatible with a safe and livable community?

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

soren

“PBOT considers second pilot in 2019 …we look forward to learning from the findings to evaluate and inform a potential second pilot program in 2019.”

https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/ORPORTLAND/bulletins/21c9f16When is PBOT going to hold some pilot studies on whether Uber, Lyft, and other TNCs are compatible with a safe and livable community?Recommended 3

But those are cars and Portland already has a love affair with cars as do residents. Let’s not forget, uber and Lyft essentially bring servants to the masses. Now everyone can feel like a character in Downton abbey. That’s why it stays, nobody questions and it’s popular.

Carter
Guest
Carter

The scooters were great, except for the whole “a few bad apples” thing (some people are the worst). My complaints were few:

1) Get them out of the esplanade and public parks. They’re already not allowed there and this is where I saw most of the bad actors. The scooter companies should be able to gps-block them from functioning in these areas.
2) The folks who place the scooters around town put them in bad places like blocking the crosswalks on corners or right next to bike racks so you can’t lock up your bike. I wrote to all three companies and only one wrote back, saying they would let their people know.

Richard
Guest

I run a pet care company downtown, and I commute to all my clients by bike. Due to an injury, I tried an e-scooter for the first time today as a painless alternative. It was a life- and business-saver for me in my day-long commutes. Super bummed that I won’t have this option tomorrow. Obviously, I will opt for the streetcar and buses, but the scooter was so convenient and efficient — just from my one-day/last-day trial!

pruss2ny
Guest
pruss2ny

would love to see some accounting for scooter related accidents/injuries. there were certainly complaints about dangerous behavior that u can accept or discount as u wish…but a friend who works a downtown ER randomly inserted in conversation one night that this summer they saw a definitive uptick in injuries/broken bones that typically included some mixture of alcohol and scootering. seems like data that should be documentable.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Are there restrictions on private scooter ownership? That is, if I buy one of these electric scooters for my own use, do the city’s regulations currently cover that?

9watts
Subscriber

“showed them to be wildly popular and used in a way that aligns with nearly all of the City of Portland’s adopted transportation goals.”

I think we should try to flesh this out a little bit.

Wildly popular – sure. So are (were) fidget spinners and yoyos and pagers. Popular is good, but popular is not by itself a good metric.

Portland’s adopted transportation goals – Comparing an e-scooter to a single occupant vehicle (if in fact these scooters were used to substitute for car trips) then sure. But I remain skeptical how many of those trips these substituted for. And we are talking about a very short lived (4 mo lifespan translates essentially to a throwaway) motor vehicle here.
The only thing about them I mind is our collective refusal to acknowledge, discuss, grapple with the problematic material and energetic lifecycle of these things, not to mention the prospect of something else, even sexier, displacing them in ~24 or ~36 months, at which point the whole lot will be junked like all those thousands of surplus unused bike share bikes we see dumped into ravines in China.

Btw, does anyone know what will happen to the fleets from our streets? It’s been right around four months….

Fred
Guest
Fred

I think the scooter should become the de facto way of moving people around downtown, but I’m afraid the program will be hurt by the number of people misbehaving on the scooters. Last week I saw one guy violently jumping a Bird scooter on the sidewalk downtown – whipping it up into the air and landing hard on the wheels, over and over. I also saw a lot of people, over the summer, swerving and doing tricks on the scooters. Treating the scooters like toys is not going to increase the public’s confidence that this is a serious mode of transport, worthy of a chunk of our transport infrastructure.

I know, I know – people misbehave in cars all the time, and the police are too busy to catch them. But the scooters are going to need all the help they can get to be taken seriously.

Alex Reedin, now in Albuquerque, NM
Guest
Alex Reedin, now in Albuquerque, NM

A second pilot? Seriously? If I still had time to be a transportation activist, and were still in Portland, I’d be asking Eudaly and PBOT what questions went unanswered from the first pilot. If the first pilot was properly designed, PBOT should have all the information they need to inform a indefinite/”permanent” rollout based on it (or to have a strong basis for not recommending a permanent program at this time).

As it stands, unless the second “pilot” is planned to transition smoothly into a program, talk of a second pilot just seems like unnecessary tiptoeing because of insufficient political support.

Also, IMO, a scooter pilot is likely to be significantly less popular than a properly-implemented permanent scooter program. This is due to the sidewalk clutter issue. In the central city, the best place to park scooters is generally in the street. A pilot timeframe is too short to justify the (small) infrastructure investment needed to convert car parking to scooter parking. This leads to an inability to enforce a sidewalk rule. (If there is a shared bike/scooter parking area on every block – not every blockface, every block – then GPS can judge whether bikes/scooters are parked in those parking areas on an automated, mass basis. But the current 17 rules are completely unenforceable on a mass basis, leading to sidewalk clutter.) Prolonging the pilot timeframe may ultimately do unnecessary serious damage to the public perception of e-scooters due to the sidewalk clutter argument.

Scott Mizée
Guest

And today is the FIRST day I finally saw 3 scooters show up on my street corner this morning. Looking forward to their return to our city sometime soon. They are a great option for urban mobility.

Richard
Guest

colton
“I won’t have this option tomorrow.”You do. If you use them regularly, they are no further out of reach than owning a bike.Recommended 0

Please see above comment mentioning full-time bike commuter who temporarily used scooters due to an injury. Thanks for the helpful tip though..

Hess Mills
Guest
Hess Mills

It’s interesting that since the pilot ends today, the data collected will omit the winter and spring months. Presumably there would have been a dip in scooter activity during inclement weather, so the statistics that PBOT presents to the public will only cover the part of the year with the best weather.

q
Guest
q

It was unfortunate that there was a helmet requirement for scooters. It seemed like a lot of people were immediately dismissing scooter riders as irresponsible scofflaws based on their lack of helmets. Dropping the helmet requirement would have at least forced people to argue against them on other, more important grounds.

The helmet requirement gave people who may have been predisposed to not liking scooters a built-in way to claim scooter riders have no respect for the law or safety, regardless of how they actually rode.

David Hampsten
Guest

Our city just passed an ordinance allowing and regulating electric scooters at least through August 2019. Both Bird and Lime helped to write the ordinance here in Greensboro NC.

Scott Mizée
Guest

So… I was surprised to see 4 Lime scooters out on the sidewalk and available for rent this morning on NW 23rd. Are scooter companies risking a bad relationship with the city and continuing to operate after the pilot period has ended?

Jimmywoo
Guest
Jimmywoo

You all crack me up with your overwrought opinion making. They are scooters for crissake. Come on over to my place and yell at my kids about their scooters if it makes you feel better. Grow up.

Front1245
Guest
Front1245

Wow, surprised there are not more comments here, figured this would be a way longer thread.

Wonder where all the voluble proponents are now??

Perhaps their “pilot project” ended as well, comments for $$$?

Vince
Guest
Vince

Thought the roll out was lacking a bit of planning, and the scooters on the sidewalks were unnerving, but I saw scooters being used in parts of town where no one ever takes a shared bike. There were scooters being used in Hillsdale, Multnomah, and I saw even one parked in Washington county. Could something with an electric power source be a more attracrive method of transportation in parts of town with hills?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

As I have been saying for months: PBoT did the e-scooter companies a big favour in making it a 4 monthish pilot and not a traditional 6 months pilot…thus ending it before the wet and cold weather would have likley caused a lower total trips per day AND thus higher per trip user injuriy rate, along with operational challenges…likley: falling battery capacity, fewer juicers/ or higher juicer cost per scooter per night, scooter replacement cycles, etc. This may be why the e-scooter companies have not fought too hard to reopen the pilot period thru the big grey wet winter here… PS. Has anyone done a e-scooter test through a wet leaf strewn bike lane yet…kinda like WW’s e-scooter speed test this summer?

adam
Guest
adam

does PBOT have a mandate to help or just to obstruct and delay? what a strange organization that must be.

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

It’s a good thing they did the same process with uber and Lyft.