City of Chicago Launches 2020 Shared E-Scooter Pilot Program with Enhanced Focus on Equity and Safety

August 12, 2020

Second Chicago pilot requires scooters to be locked to a fixed object to avoid sidewalk clutter; will test if devices are an effective long-term mobility option

Mike Claffey    312.744.0707

Susan Hofer    312.742-2006

CHICAGO – The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) today launched a second, four-month electric-scooter pilot program that includes enhanced requirements to keep sidewalks and the right of way clear of obstructions, and ensures equitable distribution of scooters throughout the City. The second pilot, run by CDOT and BACP, will include 10,000 scooters divided equally among three vendors: Bird, Lime and Spin.  

In a change from the first pilot in 2019, e-scooters must be locked to a fixed object such as bike rack to end a ride. In addition, the vendors are required to deploy 50 percent of their scooter fleet in designated Priority Areas that cover 43 percent of the pilot area.  Another key difference is that scooters will be available throughout most of Chicago, with the exception of the Central Business District, the Lakefront Trail and The 606. 

“This new scooter pilot program builds on our experience in the first pilot, focuses on safety for scooter riders and the general public, and requires a more equitable distribution of scooters,” said CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi. “We will also test the viability of scooters as a mobility option across Chicago’s neighborhoods. Particularly during the Covid-19 public health crisis, it's important that we explore innovative options that make it easier for Chicagoans to get around.”  

“Chicago is dedicated to testing the viability of innovative mobility options that have the potential to improve transportation access across the City,” said BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno. “Vendors will be held to the highest standards of accountability in how effectively they manage impacts on the public right-of-way and how they promote the safety of both scooter riders and other people who are in the right-of-way.”  

The City drafted updated rules and minimum requirements based on the 2019 pilot and feedback from residents and community organizations.  

With an emphasis on safety, scooter riders are encouraged to wear a helmet. The speed of scooters is limited to 15 mph and they may not be ridden on sidewalks. Scooters may only be operated between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. New this year, riders will also be required to pass a safety quiz before using a device. 

In order to reduce the potential for sidewalk clutter and maintain clear pathways for Chicagoans who are visually-impaired and those with disabilities who depend on unobstructed sidewalks, the 2020 pilot requires all e-scooters to be equipped with a lock to secure the device to a fixed object to end a trip. This also means that scooters can be left out overnight, rather than being removed from the public way each evening. Examples of approved e-scooter locking locations include: bike racks and corrals, street signs and light poles (not including bus stop signs).  

The City has built an enforcement mechanism into the second pilot that gives the vendors a financial incentive to quickly respond to complaints about scooters that are not in use and are blocking the public way or improperly parked.  The public is urged to report any such scooters directly to the company using the phone and online contact information displayed on each scooter. If no action is taken within two hours, the public can report the issue through the 311 phone and web-based system, and City workers will retrieve the device. Vendors will have to pay $100 to recover a scooter that is removed by the City. 

In order to reduce the incidence of riding scooters on sidewalks, the companies are required to educate riders via their apps about the danger of sidewalk riding.  At least two of the vendors plan to test a sidewalk riding detection system on their devices that could be used to issue warnings to riders who fail to comply with this restriction.  

The second pilot requires the vendors to deploy at least half their fleets in Priority Areas that cover 43% of the total pilot area. The equity priority areas cover neighborhoods where residents face systemic disadvantages following generations of underinvestment and inequitable access to transportation and other resources. Compliance to this requirement will be checked twice per day. Vendors will provide the City with real-time data on operations, ridership, and safety, and the City may suspend or revoke the licenses of vendors that fail to adhere to the pilot’s terms.  

In selecting the three vendors, the City received and evaluated four complete applications for the 2020 pilot and approved the three companies to move forward. All 10 companies who received a permit in 2019 were eligible to apply to participate again this year. The selected companies demonstrated in their applications the ability to meet Chicago’s strict operational, safety and equity guidelines for the four-month scooter pilot, which is scheduled to run from August 12 through December 12.   

The 2020 pilot is the second year of a two-year Emerging Business Permit issued by BACP last year. Once the pilot has been completed, City staff will evaluate the impact and success of the pilot, including using ridership data and feedback from both riders and non-riders, before making any determination regarding the long-term suitability of an e-scooter program within the City. Should the City desire to continue past this two-year pilot, there will be further engagement with residents and City Council to determine a long-term approach to innovative, shared micromobility.   

 Additionally, the scooter pilot is one of many strategies the City is pursuing under the American Cities Climate Challenge to accelerate its efforts to reduce carbon emissions by the end of 2020 and achieve its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions consistent with targets set in the Paris Agreement. Shared bicycles and scooters have emerged as a new way for people to travel across their cities, and the pilot may offer a substitute for more carbon-intensive forms of travel for short point-to-point trips and first- and last-mile transit commute connections. 

For more information on the scooter pilot, go to:  

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