Chicago’s Popular Scooter Pilot Ends Tuesday, Map: Here's The Scooter Complaints | WBEZ
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Chicago’s Popular Scooter Pilot Ends Tuesday

Chicago’s e-scooter experiment comes to an end Tuesday.

The city had allowed 10 companies to provide the scooters in certain neighborhoods since June 15. Here’s how it worked: For a $1 and an additional 15 cents per minute for most vendors, scooters were available to ride in a handful of neighborhoods on the Northwest, Southwest and West sides.

In total, 772,450 scooter rides were taken during the trial period — that’s an average of about 7,000 rides per day.

Scooters could not leave the pilot area, and were only operational between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. Companies were responsible for collecting the scooters for overnight storage and evenly distributing them throughout the community the next morning.

Riders were not allowed on sidewalks and various other places in the test zone, such as The 606.

But that doesn’t mean the rules weren’t broken. The city issued the companies 39 violations for things like slow responses to user reported complaints. The city wouldn’t comment on injuries, but several had been reported.

Source: 311, Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Complaints for e-scooters as of Oct. 10.

Credit: Elliott Ramos/WBEZ

The scooters were most popular in the West Loop and on Milwaukee Avenue in Bucktown and Logan Square.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection oversaw the program and will now take the next several months to analyze data collected from the participating scooter companies.

The department gathered data on the rides, violations and accidents. The Chicago Department of Transportation will also aid in data analysis.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection also created a scooter survey that has already garnered more than 7,000 responses. The survey is open until Oct. 27.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said it has yet to analyze the data, and would not provide specifics from the survey. Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escanero said she wants to take time with the numbers before reaching a conclusion.

A report could be available by next year.

However, anecdotal evidence and a cursory look at the survey results revealed public opinion is split, she said.

“There is very little middle ground, it appears,” she said. “Some people are like, ‘They’re terrible,’ and other people are like, ‘Oh my God! They’re the best thing ever.’ We may see some of the public divide up in the same way. Some people really love them and it’s evidenced by the number of trips that we are seeing. There’s the other side to this where residents are just not liking them and see them as a nuisance. Having that input is so important.”

39 tickets, unknown injuries

Chicago is not the first city to try scooters. They’ve caught on in Washington, D.C. and Denver, offering alternative transport that advocates say provide options for communities underserved by existing transit infrastructure. Escanero said they are particularly interested in solving that problem for West and South Side residents.

Other cities have decided against scooters for their disruption to public life and safety concerns. Disability advocates have said scooters left in the middle of the sidewalk can restrict access for wheelchair users. Nashville ended its program after an intoxicated rider died in a crash.

While the city is not releasing accident data at this time, there have been reports of crashes in Chicago.

During the first week of the program, cyclist Allyson Medeiros was seriously injured in a crash with a scooter going the wrong way.

Bryant Greening, an attorney who represents Medeiros, said that the firm supports the scooters for their potential to close transportation gaps.

“But community safety has to be the most important element,” he said. “If you have rules in place and you don’t enforce them, they’re not rules at all.”

The Department of Business and Consumer Protection issued 39 citations to the scooter companies Bird, Bolt, grüv, JUMP, Lime, Lyft, Sherpa, Spin, VeoRide and Wheels.

These penalties ranged from $200 to $1,000.

“The city has taken steps but I can guarantee there have been more than 40 violations,” Greening said.

He added that scooters are inherently more hazardous because people do not have an intuitive understanding of how to use scooters like they do for bikes.

In an August study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that 30% of all scooter related accidents occurred on a person’s first ride, according to data culled from the scooter program in Austin, Texas.

The Department of Business and Consumer Protection said that the city is concerned with public safety and its enforcement reflected that.

The department even ran undercover enforcement to check that the companies were complying with area restrictions, riding scooters to the edge of these zones to verify that they would slow to a stop at the boundaries set by the city.

The most common infractions were for broken horns and inability to fix user reported problems within two hours, a requirement set at the beginning of the program.

“If you can’t call and get a timely response, that’s concerning,” said Department of Business and Consumer Protection spokesman Issac Reichman.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Chicago Department of Transportation will make a final evaluation of the program and determine next steps, including if City Council approval is required to distribute scooters citywide.

Vivian McCall is a reporting intern with WBEZ.

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