Scooting around Salt Lake City, the debate over Lime and Bird scooters
By Kennedee Webb
SALT LAKE CITY — Have you seen riders zipping around corners of streets on Lime or Bird scooters around downtown Salt Lake City? It seems like everywhere you go in the city, you are bound to see someone “scooting” and enjoying the cool breeze as they ride along the streets and sidewalks. These scooters were introduced to the city in early summer of 2018, and have quickly become a hit with people downtown and on local college campuses. While riders seem to love this new form of transportation, some are debating the safety of these scooters on our streets and sidewalks.
The rentable Bird and Lime scooters are very similar, both are dockless and powered electronically. The scooters can be accessed through each of the companies’ downloadable apps. The rider is able to locate a scooter near their current location, pay for the ride and activate the scooter, all through the app.
The starting amount for each scooter is $1.00 and then the app charges the rider 15 cents for each additional minute. The riders must 18 or over and have a valid driver’s license. After riders reach their destinations they may set down the scooter in a safe location and leave. At the end of the night, scooters are located, recharged, then returned to their “nests.”
On the one hand, these scooters seem like a wonderful idea. Not only do they provide easy and fast transportation, they are fun, “cool,” and budget- and environmentally-friendly. They’re a great alternative for those in a rush, or for those who don’t like to walk. And the scooters go up to a 14 miles per hour.
“I really love having the scooters up here on campus,” says Shaylee Anderson, a 21-year-old student at the University of Utah. “They are so easy to access through the app and pretty cheap for students like me who are broke. The scooters provide me a quick way to get to class, if I’m running a little late. When riding, I do make sure to be very aware of my surroundings so I don’t have a chance of hitting other students.” However, for every positive of a new fad, there seems to be a negative as well.
Safety issues have been a concern for schools and the city ever since the scooters popped up in early summer. These concerns include riding along the sidewalks and the possibility of injuring pedestrians or other riders. Riders must ride in the street and in bicycle lanes or travel lanes, they are prohibited from riding on the sidewalk. Also parking scooters has been a safety issue.
[According to city regulations?] riders should park scooters safely between the sidewalk and curb, taking care that the scooter is not adjacent to a lamp post or other street pole, UTA bus stop sign, bike rack, or on the sidewalk where it will impede ADA access and the general flow of people. Also, a rider cannot park their scooter within 50 feet of a GREENbike station, at a UTA bus or TRAX station, or in parking spots dedicated to cars.
Jon Larsen, director of the Transportation Division Department of Communities? and Neighborhoods of the Salt Lake City Corporation talked about Salt Lake City’s view on the scooters and what they are planning for future improvements. “Generally, I would say that we are supportive of the scooters, because of the potential air quality and mobility benefits. We, of course, want everyone to be safe, and have worked with the vendors on outreach and education of users.
According to Larsen, permanent regulations for scooters are not yet in place. “We are also working on expanding our network of bike lanes throughout the city so that people have a safe place to ride. We created a temporary operating agreement that allows vendors to operate in the city and sets the ground rules for them to operate. We will likely adopt a permanent ordinance that governs the operation of shared scooters sometime in 2019.”
Many working professionals still have their doubts. Ian Welch, 43, works downtown at the Wells Fargo building. “I don’t know how I feel about these scooters,” he says. “I have almost been hit a couple times by riders who are unaware of their surroundings. I can see the benefits the scooters can have on downtown, however there really needs to be an outreach on the safety uses of these scooters so I don’t get stomped down to the ground.”
The scooters debate is bound to continue downtown Salt Lake City and on local campuses. Whether you’re pro scooters or ready to see them scoot away from the city, they have been a focal point of transportation over the past year. It seems like most people have accepted the scooters, and the city has adapted well; however, there will always be safety concerns. The city and riders are aware of these concerns and are taking actions to ensure that safety is the number one priority. For now, it looks like the scooters are here to stay.