E-scooters return to Portland’s streets

29th April 2019 Christopher Carey

E-scooters have returned to the streets of Portland following last year’s four-month pilot programme.

Out of 12 applicants, three companies–Lime, Bolt and Spin–were awarded permits on Friday 26 April, and four more–Clevr Mobility, Jump, Razor USA and Shared Technologies Inc.–are in the final stages of the process.

The new pilot will last one year, after which a decision will be made as to whether the vehicles will become a permanent sight on Portland’s streets.

On the sidelines of the 20-20 Cities meeting on Urban Mobility in Boston last week, Cities Today spoke to Chris Warner, Interim Director at the Portland Bureau of Transportation, about how e-scooters will be incorporated into the city’s transport plan.

“We’ve been through an extensive evaluation period, which involved focus groups, surveys and discussions with stakeholders in order to figure out what we can change and what the best solutions are,” he said. “Now we’re planning to do some more experimentation to see what mixes work for us, while making sure factors such as safety are a priority.”

The bureau has mandated that scooter companies take out at least US$2 million in insurance in order to operate within city limits.

New rules also require firms to legally declare themselves responsible for educating users about helmet requirements or how to ride safely, protecting the city from lawsuits resulting from any potential accidents.

For the second pilot, the 12 companies were judged across several categories; including their ability to provide equity and operate safely.

“There were still some concerns about sidewalk riding and using helmets in order to comply with state law,” added Warner. “With regards to safety we didn’t have any major injuries [during the first trial], so we were lucky in that sense, but we are still being pretty cautious.”

Users face a US$50 fine for riding on a sidewalk, a US$15 fine for parking illegally, and repeat offenders could see their accounts suspended for 30 days.

The city intends to put pressure on companies to ensure that riders comply with the law.

During the course of last year’s project, over 700,000 e-scooter trips covering 1.3 million kilometres were taken by Portland residents, and peak usage took place between 4-6pm.

Mobility patterns in Portland have changed over the past 20 years, with statistics showing a gradual decrease in the number of residents driving alone to work, while the number cycling has increased.

Initially 2,500 scooters will hit the streets, but should the trial progress according to plan, this will be expanded to 6,000.

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