Last year, Chicago introduced a pilot program for electric scooters for city folk to experiment with and ride around on through the summer months. This year, that program is back with four times the amount of electric scooters in Chicago than last year and will be available across a much wider expanse of the city.
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While last year’s program lasted roughly four months, included a fleet of 2,500 electric scooters, and covered around 50 square miles of the North, South, and West sides, this summer will up the game.
This year’s program is aiming to have four times the scooters deployed and have the 10,000 scooters distributed amongst three vendors instead of the 10 providers that supplied the scooters last year. (All of the vendors from last year are eligible to submit applications to the city, but only three of them will be given permission to deploy the scooters.) City officials hope this will be an improvement in satisfaction given that users won’t have to download as many apps for their phones to unlock and activate the scooters as they did last year.
The area in which scooters will be deployed is larger than last year’s limit to the West Side priority areas (chosen primarily because of the diminished access to Divvy bikes there compared to the rest of the city). This year, scooters will be available all over the Chicago area save for The 606, The Loop, the lakefront, and at O’Hare Airport. With this expanded area of service, the city expects usage to climb even higher than the average of 7,000 trips a day that were happening last year. Of course, the introduction of even more electric scooters also increases the potential for injury. Last year, almost 200 emergency room visits in the city were due to scooter-related injuries.
One of the biggest changes coming to the scooters this summer is that after a ride, scooters will be required to be locked up to a bike rack or other fixed objects in order to curb complaints about scooters being tripping hazards or obstructing pedestrian pathways. This will also help eliminate the need for companies to round up the scooters nightly and then redistribute them in the morning.
While it’ll be more convenient for the companies without rounding up measures in place, the current pandemic will prove another challenge in terms of sanitation. Staff for these companies will be coming around to clean the scooters, but riders are still encouraged to wear gloves and wash/disinfect their hands after each ride. In addition to the routine cleanings, vendors will be required to offer educational material digitally on and social media and work in tandem with the transportation department’s safety ambassadors and Chicago Police to give educational safety events and distribute helmets (not required by riders, but certainly recommended). All new riders will be required to take an in-app safety quiz. With the fear of cars overrunning the city this summer, perhaps a larger fleet of scooters will aid in lessening the load.
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