Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

E-scooters to return next month with tougher regulations on riders and operators

Posted by on March 25th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

PBOT wants to crack down on sidewalk riding this time around.
(Photos: BikePortland)

Portland’s second attempt at integrating electric scooters into the mobility mix could get started as early as April 26th.

And unlike the 2,000 scooters we had on the streets last year, the Portland Bureau of Transportation will start with 2,500 and estimates we could see as many as 9,000 if enough scooter companies play ball with a host of new regulations. PBOT says if all permits are granted and all operators qualify for incentives we could have 15,000 scooters in use by January 2020.

The new pilot is scheduled to last one year, after which PBOT says they’ll work with the public to develop a permanent program.

In their announcement today, PBOT released a mix of incentives and regulations that demonstrate the challenge they face to create a scooter program that leads to high ridership yet also addresses serious concerns raised by some people and organizations during the first pilot. At nearly 6,000 trips per day during the 120-day pilot last year, the scooters proved to be a valuable mobility option. However, due to a lack of safe space to ride them and a lack of consideration for others, too many people rode them on sidewalks and parked them in places that obstructed public right-of-way.

Earlier this month PBOT was sent a letter and threatened with legal action by Disability Rights Oregon over concerns about scooters being parked on sidewalks. In response, PBOT has developed a system of carrots and sticks that puts the onus on riders and scooter operators to fix that problem.

Advertisement


PBOT will mandate a 25 cent “street use fee” be added to each scooter fare. Revenue from that fee will be added to a 5 to 20 cent “right-of-way fee” (based on where the rental takes place) charged to scooter companies in order to “generate funding to build safe places for people to use e-scooters, such as protected bike lanes and neighborhood greenways.”

Scooter with a seat.

The more a company does to prevent riders from riding and parking on sidewalks, the more scooters they’ll be allowed to release (and the more money they can make). PBOT is offering a 20 percent increase in the size of a company’s fleet if they, “implement innovative technology or business practices that eliminate sidewalk riding.” PBOT will also award more points to a company’s permit application if they offer scooters that can be locked to public bike racks (instead of sidewalks or ADA ramps).

When it comes to accessibility, PBOT will allow operators to introduce scooters with seats.

As for riders who flout traffic laws, PBOT will make operators responsible for issuing warnings and fines to account holders who aren’t riding legally. In today’s announcement, PBOT said they’ll employ “regulatory specialists” who will monitor sidewalks and illegal riding and then forward that information onto operators. After a warning, a rider could get a fine of $50 for sidewalk riding or $15 for illegal parking.

These sidewalk fines are likely to raise attention of transportation and social justice advocates. The Portland Police Bureau has a problem with racial bias and PBOT’s own Vision Zero Task Force recommended against increased enforcement of automobile due to racial profiling concerns. It remains to be seen how illegal sidewalk riding will be enforced without singling out people based on how they look. (And remember, many people ride on the sidewalk because they feel they will be killed or seriously hurt while sharing streets with auto users.)

Another area of concern last time around was the use of scooters in Portland Parks properties like the Eastbank Esplande and Waterfront Park. It was technically illegal (no motorized vehicles allowed in parks), but many people did it anyways. To limit access to these areas, PBOT says they will require companies to use “geofencing” technology that prevents riders from ending a trip and parking in Waterfront Park.

To encourage availability in east Portland, companies will be allowed to increase the number of scooters in their fleet by 35 percent if they meet or exceed 2-3 trips per scooter per day. A minimum of 15 percent of a company’s total scooter fleet must be deployed east of I-205 (that’s down from a 20 percent minimum last pilot).

Permit applications are due April 9th and PBOT will notify finalists April 18th.

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

Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.

BikePortland needs your support.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

67
Leave a Reply

avatar
25 Comment threads
42 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
36 Comment authors
Bob WeinsteinRickEl BicicleroKristof R.Tony Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Zach
Guest
Zach

> (And remember, many people ride on the sidewalk because they feel they will be killed or seriously hurt while sharing streets with auto users.)

This is in parentheses, but this should be the headline. NO ONE RIDES ON THE SIDEWALK JUST TO BE ANNOYING – IT’S BECAUSE THERE’S NOWHERE ELSE (SAFE) TO RIDE.

Full stop. This isn’t about race. It’s about a lack of infrastructure. Build protected scooter/bike lanes—and protected intersections—and magically, people won’t ride on the sidewalk anymore.

David
Guest
David

As stated in the article the emphasis on enforcement seems to go against recommendations made elsewhere. It wouldn’t be as big a deal if drivers were held to a standard approaching what is proposed in this second “pilot” however that is not the case. This seems to be a case where a defensible decision is being made while focused in tightly on a specific problem (or set of problems) without zooming out at all to take the broader context into account.

This certainly is a victory for disability rights advocates as scooters and wheelchairs mix very poorly. Underlying that is the unstated issue that cars make it unsafe enough that everyone is seeking refuge. Until we deal with that it’s pitting environmentally “good” options against themselves while motordom is allowed to continue its reign largely unimpeded.

Also City Council needs to update their ordinance regarding e-bikes and scooters in Parks. It doesn’t really serve a public good as the rule prevents safe and efficient mobility (compared to driving).

PdxPhoenix
Guest
PdxPhoenix

I was thinking the same thing… A 50$ fine for riding on the sidewalk would/could be worth the cost vs. an emergency room visit made necessary by an oblivious driver/ill-maintained street surface.

And then re race… I see these things as more a hipster device/toy & as such more likely ridden/used(?) by white people… tho I’ve not paid them much attention.

chris
Guest
chris

I read awhile back that some of these scooter companies offered to pay for new bicycle infrastructure in some cities in exchange for the right to operate. We should cash in on that offer.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

Since e-scooters aren’t allowed on the multi-use path in Waterfront Park, if you want to ride over the river, say at the Steel Bridge, wouldn’t that make the proper place to ride the scooter on the upper deck of the bridge?

Are motor vehicle users going to respect the presence of scooters there? I used to ride the upper deck on my bicycle daily and I ended up just taking the full lane out of the Rose Quarter going east to west all the way across the bridge because 1 in 10 drivers was terrible about safe passing distance around the right hand curve approaching the top of the bridge.

If scooters are forced to the roadway in everywhere the scooters want to go it will be interesting to see patience drivers are going to have while navigating around the scooters. I don’t have much faith that they are going to be any better than they are around bicyclists.

Stephen J Sanow
Guest
Stephen J Sanow

I expect miniscule enforcement of 15,000 scooters. As a band-aid, there needs to be per-trip medical and injury liability insurance.

Sam
Guest
Sam

Why? Why don’t we, the bicycle riders, just surrender the BIKE lanes over to hipster bros on scooters and Uber/Lyft drivers? All is lost…

MTW
Guest
MTW

So, we’re going into this again with the idea that scooters should NOT be in Waterfront Park or the Esplanade? I’ve never tried a scooter and don’t really plan to, but if they don’t want you using Waterfront Park I have no idea what the point is of allowing the scooters at all. It’s the safest area to operate the scooters and it’s a mixed use path so people are already okay with the logic that some people operating in that space much travel much faster than others. Also, the folks at PBOT, City Council and regular Oregonians seems to treat this scooter program as a novelty for tourists / recreational riding (hence the completely misplaced regulation regarding mandating helmets) and Waterfront Park is the absolute perfect place for all that.

I’ve never felt the need to use a scooter because the sort of short trips (e.g. heading to a lunchtime appointment in NW from downtown) that might have made scooters an interesting option can be more easily/legally handled with either my own bike or biketown. And while I understand that less “strong and fearless” riders (or people who may not have ridden a bike in decades) may not feel comfortable just jumping on a bike share (relatedly, we should have much better bike infrastructure in the central city,) if you bar use of the scooters on the sidewalk, I don’t see why scooter use is an attractive transportation option at all.

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

Scooter Tuesday: Every Tuesday we all ride scooters & we take the lane everywhere we go. Be a total nuisance. Zoobomb on Scooters. Fill the streetcars with Scooters. Fill the Pearl with Scooters. Heck, make every day Scooter Day.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

Oh boy. Well it’s been a nice quiet winter at least.

JJJ
Guest
JJJ

These fees are too high, the companies will not be able to profit at $80 per scooter and instead we simply decide not to serve the city.

curly
Subscriber
curly

So…..no helmet requirement?

Tom
Guest
Tom

Why do they want you to park on the sidewalk if they don’t want you to ride on the sidewalk? Will users get fined if they just use regular street parking?

Flareon
Guest
Flareon

Ugh, here we go again…

I’m predicting no enforcement of any of these rules because that’s just how Portland operates. People will ride in the bike lanes squeezing out cyclists out of what limited space we already get. They will block sidewalks and bike lanes. People will ride them in parks anyway and no one will stop them. They will swerve around and ride the wrong way. If PBOT tries anything, Uber will throw their weight around until they get what they want.

I still do not understand all the love for the scooters coming from cycling advocates. I can only see scooters cannibalizing cycling mode share given how they have a penchant to take over and push out every other mode of transport they show up in (sound’s like another mode of transport people here love to hate).

mh
Subscriber

PBOT wants them locked to bike racks? The things lock themselves. Just keeping them off sidewalks is not a good enough reason to cede bike parking to them. PBOT, I’ll accept that proposal if you put in more bike corrals in the locations you find scooters parked. And do it quickly.

Jolteon
Guest
Jolteon

Sorry, but I can’t stop laughing at that picture of the dude on the granny scooter.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

“PBOT will allow operators to introduce scooters with seats”

How is this new? The definition of an electric scooter has always included a seat. They’re not “allowing” anything new.

ORS 801.348 “Has handlebars and a foot support or seat for the operator’s use”

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Still no mention of helmets? I haven’t heard how many people were cited for riding with no helmet. Or if the police were directed to not cite people. This is a really eerie gap in coverage. The couple times I thought about riding an e-scooter the only reason I didn’t was because I didn’t have a helmet and didn’t want to be harassed by police. Until the law is changed they can expect a large group of people to never try them due to the helmet requirement.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

hard to know where this goes from here…. seems like we will kiss some of our bike lanes good-bye for useful transportation, especially in the tourist core of Portland in the summer season. Scooters 3-wide in the bike lane, taking selfies and updating instagram in total oblivion, scooter lying all over the ground…. hopefully the extra cash will allow portland to build new bike lanes adjacent to the scooter lanes. But, i expect that lyft/lime/uber/bird will have a lot of strings attached to the cash, and ignore the regulations when it’s convenient, if not always. corporate control of access to the streets is the long game, and this is another step in that direction.

I would be okay if scooter riders had some skin in the game for bike lane access (personal ownership, maintenance, year-long use, grass-roots advocacy, etc) but the responsibility-free, instant-gratification aspect of this new mode/fad, along with hyper-analytic money-making corporate profit soul and cookie-cutter device of this new transport idea makes me want to reject the idea of sharing hard-earned bike lanes with these corporate upstarts. I know I’m not alone in this feeling. Does the desire for instant convenience and yet another car-free get-around mode really outstrip the dark side of this issue and the impact to Portland Biking this will bring? Are cyclists really prepared to jump on this band wagon simply because of the siren-song of a car-free set of wheels?

q
Guest
q

I used to see people (alone, groups, families, all ages) in the last round riding scooters on the Willamette Greenway Trail. All looked like they were having fun, and it seemed like a perfect place to ride them. I never felt (or got a sense others felt) that there was any conflict with people biking or walking. I also saw plenty of mixed bike-scooter groups.

There’s also now quite a bit of electric skateboard use and ebike use on the trail and other park paths.

The scooters seemed to make better sense on the park paths than on streets for most of the people I saw.

So as others have said, it is weird to see the program moving forward with two of the biggest (to me anyway) problems–illegality of riding in parks, and the dumb helmet requirement–not corrected.

q
Guest
q

I don’t recall this being mentioned….if scooters were legal on sidewalks and park paths, and become at all popular, that will create a demand for wider sidewalks, smoother surfaces, curb cuts, and lack of obstructions that will benefit pedestrians, especially those needing accessible features (since for the most part, those are also the features that benefit scooter users).

That benefit could at least partially offset problems caused by scooter use on sidewalks and park paths, especially over time.

If scooters are prohibited from sidewalks and paths, that benefit will never happen.

Lowell
Guest
Lowell

Scooter companies will be encouraged to have their scooters locked to bike racks? A lot of popular spots in the city already don’t have enough bike parking, it’s gonna get a lot worse with scooters taking up near-permanent residence in the bike racks.

Tony
Guest
Tony

What’s going to prevent most of those 15,000 scooters to be concentrated in the downtown and Pearl district areas? A second pilot program will help find out what new issues will arise. Keep doing pilot programs until the city can come to a final decision. Yes it will work. No it doesn’t work.

Bob Weinstein
Guest
Bob Weinstein

PBOT has eliminated the complaint process established last year, whereby Portlanders could report violations, such as riding on sidewalks, directly to PBOT. Now PBOT has turned the complaint and enforcement processes over to the scooter companies themselves, and refuses to have a process where citizens can complain directly to PBOT. This is like the FAA turning over 737 Max safety standards- or air crash investigations- to Boeing. The foxes have been put in charge of the hen house.

The betting is that the number of complaints will decreases dramatically from last year because few Portlanders will bother. So far in its weekly updates PBOT has refused to release any data about “complaints” made to the scooter companies, as well as any data about required warnings and fines.