The e-scooter gods are taunting us here in Seattle.
All of these places have one thing in common: They have launched e-scooter pilots.
Even Google Maps is rubbing it in. Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, partnered with e-bike and e-scooter company Lime back in 2018. Google Maps just rolled out e-scooters as a transit option that users can select when trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B in more than 100 cities. That includes Seattle where e-scooters are still not an option.
Seattle and its leadership have been feet-dragging with the whole e-scooter issue. Despite Mayor Jenny Durkan's acquiescence to tentatively allow an e-scooter pilot back in May, there seems to have been no progress made on getting one here.
At the time, there was speculation that the timeline for the program had it launching 10 months from Durkan's announcement. Ten months? But all these other cities—including Bothell, Redmond, and Tacoma—had already implemented e-scooters. The groundwork was laid. What's the holdup?
Near the end of July, the Seattle Department of Transportation told me they were "in the early stages of discussing options for a community-driven approach to a scooter-share pilot program" and they had "been hearing a lot of feedback on this issue—including both support for a pilot program and public concerns about safety, equity, and sidewalk accessibility."
That all sounded like a lot of nothing to me.
When I contacted the Seattle City Council for comment, they were even more opaque. Weeklong back-and-forths ended with no updates. However, currently, Council Members Mike O'Brien and Abel Pacheco are putting forward a resolution asking SDOT to make room in their budget to create on-street parking for e-bikes and e-scooters.
It's part of the M.A.S.S. transit package and, according to a staff memo, would put e-bike and e-scooter corrals "at intersections where car parking is already illegal... to encourage off-sidewalk multimodal parking."
By providing off-sidewalk parking, O'Brien and Pacheco will solve one big criticism of adding e-scooters into the mix on our narrow and already-crowded sidewalks. With e-scooters out of the way, they won't hinder people with disabilities.
That will be presented during the Sustainability and Transportation Committee on Friday and could be the first step toward answering one part of the e-scooter dilemma facing Seattle. Along with reaching out to other members of the city council, I also contacted Pacheco's office for comment. I have not heard back. Still, those parking areas wouldn't be implemented until 2020.
And yes, I am annoyed that it's taking this long. (Lime spokesperson Jonathan Hopkins told me it took Tacoma three weeks to launch its program!) But, I guess if we do this thing intentionally we can make sure we do it right.
Because scooters are a lot of fun and they're a great last-mile solution. Plus, since the preferred use for them is on streets and not sidewalks, more users will mean more people who want to fight for better bike lanes. Since, you know, riding anything in the street that's not a car is terrifying.
Whatever is happening, Seattle, please at least give us an update.
Here's a beautiful video of what we could be if we ever get this program (there's an ad, sorry):