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PBOT report finds bike infrastructure key to e-scooter usage

Posted by on September 16th, 2020 at 3:45 pm

They’re not just bike lanes anymore.
(Photo: City of Portland)

Report cover.

The winding road of shared electric scooters in Portland has taken another turn. Today the transportation bureau released a report (PDF) on scooter usage and outlined plans for a permanent system. Among the findings is that cycling-specific infrastructure is key to boosting scooter ridership, especially in places with high-stress streets like east Portland.

Portland launched e-scooters in summer 2018 as a pilot program. The Portland Bureau of Transportation deemed them a success and launched a second pilot in spring 2019 that’s set to end on December 31st.

With lessons learned in courtship and positive signs that the scooters are a needed and valuable part of Portland’s transportation ecosystem, PBOT wants to settle down with fewer partners and a longer-term commitment. There are currently six different companies offering scooters in Portland. This is clunky for both users and PBOT staff to manage. A key recommendation in the report released today says PBOT wants to work with 1-3 companies for the next 2-3 years.

Build it and they will scoot.

Among the takeaways in the report is the impact of bike infrastructure on scooter usage. Not only did PBOT find that the presence of bike lanes led to much less sidewalk-scootering, GPS data shows 32% of all scooter mileage took place on protected bike lanes, unprotected bike lanes, bridge bikeways, paths, and/or neighborhood greenways. “E-scooter riders feel more comfortable when there is safe infrastructure to ride separate from cars,” states the report.

PBOT was also able to compare how ridership data changed with the construction of bike infrastructure that was built between the first and second pilots. In Waterfront Park for instance, the construction of Better Naito in 2019 led to a 55% increase in riding on Naito and a subsequent 45% decrease on the park path (this also had to do with signage warning people to stay out of the park and some “geofencing” from scooter vendors).


The new protected bike lanes on the Halsey-Weidler couplet in Gateway also appear to have impacted scooter usage. PBOT analysis shows a 125% increase in trips between 2019 and 2018. And on 102nd where new bike lanes were installed, there was a 22% boost in ridership. These increases come even as overall e-scooter ridership was lower in 2019 than 2018.

These findings show that cycling advocates would be wise to embrace scooter riders in order to strengthen and diversify their push for more dedicated infrastructure. “Bicycling is often associated with white-dominant culture,” PBOT writes in the report, “and e-scooters may or may not share that association.”

Selected graphics from the report

The recommendation of a permanent program makes it clear the City of Portland sees scooters as an integral part of the modal mix.

While some scooter trips replace bike trips, data reveals that scooters fill a different need: The average trip length for e-scooter riders is just over one mile and less than 14 minutes; the average (non-electric) bike share trip is over two miles and 25 minutes.

With the climate change catastrophe staring us directly in the face these days, PBOT also sees scooters as a key way to reduce car abuse. The city’s Transportation System Plan calls for 475,000 fewer daily car and truck trips by 2035. However even if we succeed with adopted plans, we’ll still come up with a “trip gap” of 63,000 daily trips (see graph at right). “If new mobility services like e-scooters can provide an attractive option that reduces car use and car ownership, they may help close this ‘trip gap’ and meet city congestion and climate goals,” states the report.

And of course e-scooter trips are much more earth-friendly than car and truck trips. PBOT estimates scooter riders have helped Portland lower carbon emissions by 167 metric tons and have removed the equivalent of 27 passenger cars and trucks from the streets over the 2019 pilot period.

Along with the report, PBOT released a scooter data dashboard and survey. Get all the info and links here.

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Roberta RoblesDagny TaggartsorenJason9watts Recent comment authors
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While PBOT is busy making reports and doing studies, other cities are taking action. Just today Paris announced they’re permanently banning cars from Rue de Rivoli. This video is proof that “if you build it, they will come:”




Oh hey, something we already knew! PBOT loves to study things. Of course, they aren’t going to actually build any bike infrastructure, because that would potentially making driving harder, which is unacceptable.

Just more greenwashed nonsense from a regressive transportation agency.

Kyle Banerjee

The average trip length for e-scooter riders is just over one mile and less than 14 minutes…

…With the climate change catastrophe staring us directly in the face these days, PBOT also sees scooters as a key way to reduce car abuse

If parking and traffic are as bad as people say (and I think they are), not sure why we’d assume all these rides are replacing car trips. An abled bodied person can walk that distance in practically the same amount of time, especially after the logistics of dealing with the scooter are factored in. And the cost per mile is nuts.

Having said that, I don’t mind riding on roads and paths with them. Between motors that keep them moving at consistent speeds and poor handling characteristics, I find they move more predictably than most cyclists.


In other news, water is wet. Can’t believe that this study actually had to be done, it’s so commonsense. I really wish PBOT would spend money on actual infrastructure instead of studies like this.

Meanwhile, my new city of SLC has over the past few years been removing car lanes and/or parking from multiple wide streets and converting them to bike lanes, wide sidewalks, medians, and other infrastructure, with more projects slated for the next few years. PBOT is seriously falling behind.


“And of course e-scooter trips are much more earth-friendly than car and truck trips.“

This is a key claim to justify this investment, arrangement, etc. The trouble is it is not really correct.

This study which is very well done explains why:
I know I have linked to it in the past.
Are e-scooters polluters? The environmental impacts of shared dockless electric scooters

It turns out there are a bunch of tweaks that are necessary (longer scooter lifetimes, fuel efficient collection vehicles, attention to charge level when collecting, etc.) necessary to open up the modest environmental difference between cars and e-scooters. There is nothing *automatically* better about them. And it is important to remember that since most of the trips made by these are not substituting for automobiles but for model with lower global warming impacts, the comparison to the car must more than make up for those losses.

From the study’s Results section:
“These results show that dockless e-scooters consistently result in higher life cycle global warming impacts relative to the use of a bus with high ridership, an electric bicycle, or a bicycle per passenger-mile traveled. However, choosing an e-scooter over driving a personal automobile with a fuel efficiency of 26 miles per gallon results in a near universal decrease in global warming impacts. The use of dockless e-scooters are often preferable to dockless bicycles, yielding lower life cycle emissions 67% to 100% of the time across the scenarios. When compared to the Benchmark Displacement CO2 emissions, our Base Case shows a 65% chance that the life cycle e-scooter emissions will be higher. This likelihood is reduced, but nontrivial, for our Low Collection Distance (35%), Battery Depletion Limit (40%), High Vehicle Efficiency (50%), and High Scooter Lifetime (4%) scenarios. These results underscore the importance of ensuring long lifetimes for e-scooters in reducing life cycle emissions.”


Any day of the week, I would prefer to see people riding these scooters versus driving. I would much more prefer if they rode low tech, analogue bikes. I’m not going to balk at more scooters though. If more scooters on the road equates to more bike lanes, great.


Bike mode share slightly decreased to 5.2% according to Census ACS numbers released today. This is almost a 30% drop from the 2014 peak and represents a nominal loss of one fifth of Portland’s bike commuters from that peak (4295 fewer bike commuters out of a total of 23347 in 2014).

Sadly, I think the likelihood that Portland’s council members are going to prioritize cycling infrastructure given these dismal numbers is low.

Perhaps we should go with the corporatist flow and rebrand bike lanes, as e-scooter lanes. We could even sell infrastructure naming rights to corporations. Clinton could become the Nike Greenway and Ankeny the Ford Greenway (owner of SPIN escooters).


Big surprise that only 1% of scooter use is west of the river, outside of downtown. And that’s partly cuz there haven’t been any scooters stationed here, though lately I’ve seen some scooters (from Spin?) stationed along Multnomah Blvd. I’ve been tempted to take a spin (Spin??) but I have my bike so it’s not really a priority for me, and I continue having trouble seeing how an e-scooter parked on the corner is ever going to replace trips of any type for me (trips by car, where I need to haul heavier stuff and the dog, and trips by bike, where I haul lighter stuff).

Not sure if this point is anywhere in the report, but I think the scooters need docking stations like the ones the Nike Bike-ees have. I see scooters strewn about, blocking sidewalks, which could be caused by scooter-haters to turn The People (esp The Walking People and The Wheelchair-Using People) against scooters. Remove one car-parking space and there’s your scooter docking station. They could make them really attractive, put cameras on them, etc.

Phil Richman

7 years ago in an effort to eliminate car use I bought an e-cargo bike (Surly Big Dummy) from Splendid Cycles. That was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

After having experienced the e-scooters enough to find some use for them I just decided to do some research and purchase my own just over a year ago. It has been a year now I have owned a Ninebot Kickscooter Max. This is the same scooter as the Spin scooters.

Although I ride bikes a lot, including my e-Big Dummy, there are many times now where I just hop on the scooter and go, because it is simple, nimble and involves little effort. I have a theory that unlike bikes, e-scoots appeal to Americans desire to be sedentary. Generations of automotive infrastructure and car dependence have made us lazy. Unfortunately that will not change over night.

Unlike the shared scooters that seem to get trashed routinely and get abused I have control over how my own scooter is treated. Also, because it has a collapsible bar it can be taken on TriMet too. It charges FAST and also has enough speed, which is generally as fast or faster than a drive (20 is plenty). It’s range is also plenty (20-40 miles). I can lock it’s wheels using an app or u-lock it for longer time periods.

More recently I have a friend who became inspired by seeing my use of the e-scooter. He is now scooting from SE to Beaverton for his daily commute rather than driving. Evidence e-scooters can and do replace car trips.

One of my favorite things in the world is to ride I bicycle, but I never imagined I’d have other car-free alternatives. If I can help anyone here become car-free or car-lite feel free to get in touch. E-(cargo?) bikes and e-scooters combined with a TriMet pass could replace your car.


Now build the dang infrastructure!

Dagny Taggart
Dagny Taggart

Quote: “…. and have removed the equivalent of 27 passenger cars and trucks from the streets over the 2019 pilot period.” Only, what, 1/2 million cars and trucks to go. Easy!