I love them.
I love them. Nathalie Graham

Seattle pioneered dockless bike-share, but the city has become one of the last to embrace the e-scooter equivalent. Thankfully—finally—that's going to change. But the timeline isn't clear.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said that she and Councilmember Mike O'Brien had been pushing for a scooter pilot program as early as two months before the period of maximum constraint, when the viaduct closed and the SR 99 Tunnel wasn't open.

"We were told, 'Well, that’s just not possible,'" Mosqueda said at City Hall Thursday.

And yet, one painfully stiff and overly-cautious GeekWire op-ed later, we're getting scooters.

Mayor Jenny Durkan's disdain for scooters is well-known and thinly veiled. She has expressed concerns over their safety and has banned them outright, making them illegal to ride on city streets. Seemingly every other city besides Seattle took the leap while Durkan dragged her feet.

When I was on a scooter high back in February after getting a sweet, sweet taste of the good life during a visit to a scooter-embracing city, I asked the Seattle Department of Transportation what the deal was. They said the city had no plans to get scooters on Seattle streets.

But, I guess Jenny Durkan changed her mind.

"I’m just glad to see her position on the issue evolve," Councilmember Abel Pacheco said. "I’m excited to work with her on this."

The city seems to still be figuring out its plan. At City Hall Thursday, Lime and Bird, two e-scooter startups (you know Lime for their bikes), showcased their scooters for people to test ride.

There was also a "lunch and learn" information session with the Portland Department of Transportation, a city that already successfully ran one four-month scooter pilot, and which just launched its yearlong scooter pilot at the end of April.

"Ogden, Utah launched its pilot in two weeks," said Jonathan Hopkins, Lime's director for strategic development in the Northwest. "Tacoma in three weeks. A lot of places have turned this around quite quickly."

Mosqueda referenced a current possible timeline for Seattle's pilot as 10 months from now. I know you can add, but, just in case, that is MARCH of 2020.

That's not set in stone. "My comment was in reference to the fact that we’ve heard early next year," Mosqueda clarified, "and my hope is we can do a robust process and learn from what other cities have already done in the next few months."

Hopkins agrees, he doesn't think we should have to wait as long as next year.

"We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here," Hopkins said. "It’s the same in almost every city. Just copy Portland. An ounce of practice is better than a time of very expensive studies that tell us what every other city has already told us."

It seems like, at least for now, those studies and those reviews could add up to that 10-month timeline. But why?

"I think [Durkan]’s trying really hard to sound like the climate action mayor," Glen Buhlmann, an attendant at the event, told The Stranger. He described himself as a Seattle voter but not a Durkan voter. "She's got her soundbites, and then she turns around and does things like ban scooters for a year and says that the pilot will start next year."

If we take Durkan at her word, it's because she's really concerned about scooter safety. That's the common refrain with these vehicles, anyway. Every journalist accompanied by a cameraman at the event Thursday asked questions centered around safety, helmets, and risk. Durkan cited a Center for Disease Control report in her op-ed yesterday. Here's that line:

In the CDC study, nearly half of those hurt in scooter crashes sustained head injuries, 15 percent of which were traumatic brain injuries.

Now, take this math and this report with a grain of salt since scooters are brand-spankin' new as far as technology goes. But, that report found that 20 people were injured for every 100,000 scooter trips. That’s 0.02 percent. Only about 41% of those injuries were "severe." That's like eight people. And that means that the other 59% (a whole 12) boil down to scooter scrapes. Put a band-aid on it!

Of those approximately eight injured scooter riders, six of them were first-time riders. That makes sense. Let me tell you, there's definitely a learning curve. I was scared the first time I hopped on a Lime scooter. I wobbled like a baby giraffe, but not one that needs custom therapeutic shoes. By my second ride, however, I was an expert. That's the common refrain, too. Mosqueda said the first time she rode one she ran into a trashcan. There's a learning curve, but it's as steep as a hill in Kansas.

While it's good to be cautious, all this fear-mongering over injuries and safety is unnecessary. The thing that complicates the scootering environment is cars. The thing that makes scooters—something not meant to be ridden on the sidewalk—better is bike infrastructure.

According to Lime data, 57 percent of users nationwide had not ridden a bicycle in less than 6 months.

"This overlap is complementary; we’re inviting a lot of people in who don’t already use this system—and that fulfills our goals to increase infrastructure," Hopkins said.

That's because there are more people using bike infrastructure than before because scooters are being embraced by a different non-biking demographic.

"People overwhelmingly prefer protected bike lanes for usage," Hopkins continued. "When people are riding on sidewalks the real reason they’re doing that is because there’s no safe space created for them."

Why have we been sleeping on this? Durkan wants to make doubly sure that scooter share will be safe, will be equitable, and will be affordable. That's good and that's responsible, sure, but it doesn't have to take 10 months, not when these companies have been implementing these practices in different cities all over the country for nearly a year.

"I think the city can craft a path, and, using the mayor's concerns about safety... we can make it work well," Councilmember Mike O'Brien told The Stranger.

The biggest thing is that scooters are fun and easy. And, from the sample size of my one week in Atlanta, they're habit-forming. Hopkins thinks so, too. They are the perfect last-mile solution to connect people with public transit.

"If we have the same sort of urgency we say we have about climate, congestion, taking care of people in an equitable way," Hopkins told the council members present, "then we do it tomorrow. But it takes this level of urgency."

An earlier version of this post said that the timeline for scooter share was 10 months. It has been updated with a clarifying comment from Teresa Mosqueda who said 10 months was a possibility but not a fact.