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Get Scooter Riders Off The Sidewalks And Into The Streets, Aldermen Urge City

City officials said 192 people were injured while riding scooters during last year's pilot program.

Electric scooters could hit downtown streets in the spring if a proposal passes in the City Council Thursday.
Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University.
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CITY HALL — Aldermen told city officials on Wednesday that they must do more to keep people from riding on sidewalks when scooters return to the streets of Chicago this summer as part of a second pilot program.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said he saw scooter riders whizzing down sidewalks during last summer’s pilot program menacing pedestrians — including some who were sight-impaired.

“The companies aren’t there to regulate the goofball doing it, right?” Reilly said. “And it begs the question, who’s being held accountable for what behavior?” Reilly asked, urging officials to consider finding a way to prevent the scooters from operating on sidewalks.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) urged Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareño and Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi to stop riders from dropping their scooter in the middle of sidewalks once their timed ride ends.

“The education of the community is really important, and if you can solve for not making the community look like all hell has broken loose with scooters scattered on the sidewalk, it might be an attractive program,” Dowell said, adding that the scooters should not be allowed Downtown or on the crowded Lakefront Trail.

West Side Ald. Michael Scott (24th) said the city needs to do a better job educating Chicagoans on how to ride scooters safely, and how not to create a nuisance.

“The scooters were a benefit to my community, but safety is a concern,” Scott said.

Biagi and Escareño said the details of the second test run for scooters in Chicago are still being worked out. Officials have not yet decided where scooters would be allowed to whizz down city streets, when the test would start or how many companies would be permitted to operate and in what neighborhoods.

However, Biagi did suggest that the second pilot will not include scooter firms that did not participate in the first test run, which allowed 10 companies to scatter 250 dockless scooters across a roughly 50-square-mile area.

Biagi said it was not likely not all 10 of the companies would be allowed to participate in this summer’s test run, saying city officials believed having fewer firms to manage “made sense.”

In addition, Biagi encouraged companies to include a way for their scooters to be locked to poles or other parts of the streetscape to get it out of the public way if they wanted to be picked by officials to participate.

Biagi also said city officials wanted to see more ways for people without bank accounts or credit cards to be able to rent the scooters, as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s commitment to equity.

“The second pilot will build on the good work of the first pilot,” Biagi said. “We need to go deeper.”

Escareño said the first pilot test run was “absolutely a success” but fell short on “equity issues.”

Approximately 75 percent of the scooter rides took place in the West Loop and along the CTA Blue Line, but it is unclear whether scooter trips supplemented train or bus trips, according to city data. Approximately 34 percent of online survey respondents told officials they used scooters to go to or from public transit.

Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) said he requested the rare joint session of the Committee on Licensing and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety to spotlight the results of the first scooter pilot program in part because his ward had the highest number of injuries related to scooters. In all, city officials said 192 people were injured while riding scooters during the pilot program.

But La Spata said he hoped scooters would eventually replace a significant number of single-occupant car trips and could be part of the city’s response to the climate emergency it declared earlier this month.

“We owe it ourselves to find more sustainable transportation options,” La Spata said.