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Bikeshare company Lime pushing Seattle to allow electric scooters

The City of Seattle is being pressured by at least one company to allow for free-floating electric scooters. But Mayor Durkan says a study needs to be done.
The Bigelows ride Lime-S scooters in Tacoma.

Bikeshare company Lime is pressuring to the City of Seattle to allow electric scooters.

The company, which currently operates floating bikeshare in the city, sent an email to users this week encouraging them to contact local leaders in support of the scooters.

Lime noted 320,000 people have tried Lime bikes.

“It’s clear citizens are loving this new way to get around,” the email reads. “Now we think it’s time to add electric scooters to the mix. We want Mayor Durkan and the City Council to know that citizens like you want that too.”

The free-floating scooters are unlocked using an app for $1. They do not need to be parked at a docking station. It’s one solution put forward to help commuters solve the "last mile" problem – traveling relatively short distances to and from transit hubs, or around town.

Several scooter companies began sowing controversy earlier this year when they appeared on streets of many major cities.

Seattle ordinances currently do not allow electric scooters on sidewalks, bike lanes, or public paths. The city has also informed operators that it must first create a permit program for any scooter-share operator.

“As part of the City’s strategy to give residents and commuters more mobility options, Mayor Durkan supported significantly expanding the nation’s first free-floating bike share program, which includes electric bikes,” Durkan’s office said in a statement. “...Mayor Durkan has discussed the benefits and challenges of electric scooters with mayors across the country. Before moving forward to pilot electric scooters, Mayor Durkan would want to study the successes in other cities across the country including evaluating public health and safety data.”

Tacoma recently launched a 60-day pilot scootershare program. Lime will put 250 scooters and 250 electric bikes on the streets throughout that period, the city said.

Tacoma requires riders to wear helmets on the scooters. It allows them to be ridden on roadways, shoulders, sidewalks and alleys, but not in bike lanes, pedestrian paths, park trails or school fields/playgrounds.

Thursday night, Nicholas and Nicole Bigelow tried the scooters in downtown Tacoma.

“We were on our date night, and there were two sitting outside the place we were sitting at,” said Nicholas. “We figured what the hell, try it, take it for a spin.”

That ride already had Nicole reconsidering her commute.

“I work in Des Moines, so I take a couple buses to work every day,” she said. “It’s not a long walk, but it would definitely make it shorter to get to the bus stop.”

Lime said in one day, its campaign led 3,000 people to contact Seattle about allowing scooters.

“We’re in awe of the support we’ve seen. In just over a year, more than 1 million riders have tried Lime’s bikes,” said Lime’s Washington General Manager Isaac Gross. “Especially given impending major traffic challenges, we are committed to providing last mile mobility choices to this community and believe scooters should be a part of that. Clearly, Seattleites agree.”

It remains to be seen if the program will make it to Seattle though - Durkan's office noted it would require an amendment to city laws, and community outreach.

The mayor's office also noted three operators have applied for 2018-2019 bikeshare permits - Lime, Lyft, and Jump, which is owned by Uber.

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