E-scooter program returns to Chicago with new restrictions, focus on communities

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Thursday, August 13, 2020
E-scooter program returns to Chicago with new restrictions, focus on communities
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Whether you love them or hate them, e-scooters are back in Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Whether you love them or hate them, e-scooters are back in Chicago.

The new four-month electric-scooter pilot program launched Wednesday, including enhanced requirements to keep sidewalks and the right-of-way clear of obstructions and a focus on equal distribution of scooters throughout Chicago communities.

The second pilot, run by the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, will include 10,000 scooters divided equally among three vendors: Bird, Lime and Spin.

The three companies chosen for the program will each have 3,333 scooters on the streets. That's seven times more on the road than last year.

The I-Team investigated safety concerns during the first pilot program, when there were 10 different companies.

Crews from Lime were out Wednesday morning assembling and distributing the shared scooters.

RELATED: DePaul University study shows how, when, where e-scooters are being used across Chicago

All e-scooters must be equipped with a lock to secure it to a fixed object like a bike rack or a street sign, to end a trip. That change comes after complaints during last year's pilot about scooters left strewn along sidewalks.

Consumer Investigator Jason Knowles noticed, "There's a lock here now I see?" And Lee Foley, director of Government Relations at Lime said, "Absolutely, a Bluetooth lock."

Lime scooter representatives showed the I-Team the safety improvements. They include new braille on all of the city's e-scooters, so the visually impaired can report scooter litter.

The city will issue fines if companies don't pick up reported litter after two hours.

Scooter representatives think the locks should help, saying "What we are seeing is a change in behavior in places like San Francisco, the first city in America to require locks."

There's also now a quiz to pass in all scooter apps before riding

"There is going to be a series of safety questions before they are able to ride," Lee Foley from Lime said. "So these are questions like knowing the rules of the road, the right direction to travel on streets and knowing not to ride on sidewalks."

E-scooters are limited to 15 mph, and riders are encouraged to wear a helmet for safety. Lime is passing out 1,000 helmets with the help of community groups.

E-scooters may not be ridden on sidewalks, downtown in the Loop business district, or on the Lakefront and 606 trails, and may only be operated between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Lime said its app technology also will let riders and the city know if people are violating the rules by riding on the sidewalk for an extended time.

RELATED: Halfway into city-wide trial period, are Chicago's shared scooters making the grade?

Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi said city officials learned from last summer's pilot, and now want to test the usefulness of the scooters in neighborhoods.

"Particularly during this public health crisis, it's important that CDOT continues to pilot additional and innovative options for Chicagoans to get around," Biagi said.

All companies are required to deploy half of their fleets in neighborhoods where residents may face transportation inequities.