Lessons From Five Years of E-Scooters

As cities continue to adapt micromobility regulations to address new devices and technologies, what can we learn from Chicago's five years of e-scooter pilots?

2 minute read

December 9, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

An electric scooter blocks the sidewalk near a street festival in Chicago's West Loop.

Page Light Studios / Shutterstock

Five years after shared e-scooter fleets first hit U.S. streets, Brandon Bordenkircher and Riley O'Neil assess the successes and challenges of scooter pilot programs around the country, particularly in Chicago. Speaking with city mobility leaders, the authors evaluate how the scooter companies fulfilled—or didn't—their early promises to cities.

Bordenkircher and O'Neil find that while many cities at first reacted by banning scooters, the devices have now become an important tool in improving mobility and providing options for underserved communities, but operators and cities have fallen short on safety and sustainability goals. 

In Chicago, the city required that 50 percent of scooters would be placed in "equity zones," mandating coverage in low-income neighborhoods. However, equity advocates say increasing ridership also requires "community-led micromobility models such as neighborhood-based mobility hubs, non profit operators, and other innovative strategies that prioritize racial equity and mobility justice over profit."

When it comes to clutter and mobility, Chicago—which boasts some of the country's most robust bike parking infrastructure—requires scooter users to lock devices to a bike rack or other object, preventing the sidewalk clutter and inconvenience to pedestrians experienced in other cities.

While e-scooter fatalities remain rare, injuries are on the rise, and mobility advocates call on cities to improve infrastructure that would limit scooter-car interaction and reduce the chance of crashes. Meanwhile, despite claims that scooters provide a more environmentally friendly mobility option that can connect people to transit, the materials required to build the devices and the energy used in moving and collecting them, as well as the fact that many scooter trips could have been made by bike, on foot, or via public transit, mean that scooters do not make a meaningful impact on overall carbon emissions and resource use. 

The article concludes that although the e-scooter industry has come a long way from its early days, more efforts are required to improve safety, equity, and sustainability and meaningfully integrate the devices into cities' transportation systems.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021 in Streetsblog Chicago

View of Interstate 205 bridge over Columbia River with Mt. Hood in background.

The Unceremonious Death of a Freeway Expansion Project

The end of an Oregon freeway project didn't get much fanfare, but the victory is worth celebrating.

September 19, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

A derelict sign on a barbed wire fence reads “Golf Course, Private, No Admittance.”

Converting Golf Courses to Housing Never as Easy as the Market Would Like

Thousands of golf courses have closed in recent years, but the obvious redevelopment opportunity represented by many defunct courses isn’t always easy to realize.

September 19, 2023 - The Business Journals

Close-up of red Houston BCycle bike share bikes parked at a station

Houston To End Bike Share Program

Lacking the funding it needs to continue, Houston’s BCycle bike share system will end operations in the coming months.

September 18, 2023 - Houston Chronicle

Close-up of Unalakleet, Alaska on map.

FTA Announces Tribal Transit Program Grants

The agency awarded close to $10 million to 22 communities around the country for transit improvements.

3 hours ago - Mass Transit

View from inside glass top floor of Amtrak passenger train with Rocky Mountains scenery outside.

Making Colorado’s Front Range Rail a Reality

Local leaders are scrambling to bring together the funding and political support to create new intercity rail service in the fast-growing region.

4 hours ago - Governing

Students walking on sunny walkway on college campus.

How College Campuses Fulfill an Urbanist Dream

Most college campuses in the United States are inherently walkable, mixing various uses with diverse housing options and transit networks.

5 hours ago - The Daily

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.