Connecting state and local government leaders
“Please yield to pedestrians when riding on sidewalks," Lyft instructs Denver scooter users.
Lyft’s scooters are available in Denver from 6am to 8pm. They cost $1 to unlock and $0.15 per minute, with the clock starting when you reserve. Denver has also issued permits for up to 350 dockless electric scooters to Bird, Lime, Razor, and Spin. The city has come a long way since it seized and impounded hundreds of Lime and Bird scooters, fining the companies $150 per seized device, earlier this summer.
A popular critique of scooters in other US cities has been that scooters are a danger to pedestrians because people ride them, improperly, on the sidewalk. California prohibits motorized scooters from being ridden on sidewalks. That didn’t stop people from doing it anyway. One concerned San Franciscan wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle about a hit-and-scoot she observed with a scooter and a pedestrian in Oakland earlier this month. ”The event of electric scooters on city sidewalks is a disaster,” the letter writer said.
In Denver, however, the opposite is true: Electric scooters can only operate on the sidewalk. According to guidelines issued by Denver’s Department of Public Works for its dockless vehicle pilot program, “e-scooters are considered ‘toy vehicles’ and are not allowed in the bike lanes or in general traffic.” Toy vehicles! These scooters aren’t technically designed for children, given that they generally travel around 15 mph and can carry riders weighing up to 200 pounds. But maybe in a sense they are.
“Denver Public Works is navigating through local and state law to see if we can allow electric scooters in the bike lanes, but we’re not there yet,” Heather Burke, a public work spokeswoman, said in an email.
Lyft’s FAQ for scooter riders in Denver dutifully notes this. “You should only ride the scooter on sidewalks—don’t ride in the street, in bike lanes, within designated parks, or on park trails,” Lyft instructs riders. “Please yield to pedestrians when riding on sidewalks.” Hopefully those sidewalks don’t get too crowded.
Alison Griswold is a reporter for Quartz, which originally published this article.