Seattle just legalized e-scooters.
The Seattle City Council voted 8-1 Monday to amend the traffic code to allow scooters on streets and on bike lanes — no sidewalks, bucko — and to allow the Seattle Department of Transportation to collect fees related to the e-scooter pilot program. Alex Pedersen, the council's transportation and utilities committee chair, cast the lone vote against the program.
So when can I get my little paws on a scooter and start zipping around the city? Great question.
According to SDOT spokesman Ethan Bergerson, the pilot will start once the three scooter-share companies SDOT selected return permit paperwork the agency has yet to send out. The permits will go to "a company that provides both bikes and scooters, a company that offers seated scooters, and a company which offers standing scooters," Bergerson wrote in an email. The only company guaranteed a permit from SDOT is Lime, since that's the only bikeshare company left in Seattle.
Lime sent along a congratulatory statement:
"After being the first city to have free floating bikeshare, Seattle is taking another major step toward a more sustainable future," said Jonathan Hopkins, Director of Strategic Development for the Northwest. "It's now more important than ever for residents to have safe, socially-distant transportation options—like bikes and scooters—that can help reduce car congestion. We applaud the council for its vision and look forward to serving Seattle residents with e-bikes and scooters for many years to come."
A Lime spokesperson didn't give an exact date for when scooters would arrive, but he said "soon."
Once the paperwork is in, Seattle will allow a minimum of 500 scooters per company in the first phase of the program. Eventually, as the pilot progresses, the city will boost that number to a maximum of around 2,000 bikes per company. That means there could be around 6,000 scooters rolling around Seattle soon-ish. Companies will pay $150 per scooter.
It's been a long, Seattle process-y road to get a scooter-share program in the Emerald City. I'll spare you the boring details but, boy, e-scooters give some politicians the willies. Some council members are still hung up on safety concerns.
Pedersen said he wished the legislation in front of the council today, which was submitted to his own committee, was longer than two pages long and had more details about data collection. He reconciled the problem by saying he would simply write a letter to SDOT asking them to present data from the pilot to the council next summer and next December.
Earlier today, Councilmember Lisa Herbold requested the council push back the vote a week so she could look over a recent injury suit brought against scooter-share companies in San Francisco.
Scooter bills sponsor Dan Strauss said he'd rather get the program off the ground ASAP since summer is flickering into fall in front of our eyes. People need to learn to scoot before it's dark and wet, Strauss said. Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda jumped in to say that the council has "had robust conversation" for years on the issue, which is council-speak for "we've delayed a scooter-share vote long enough and please can't we hurry this up?"
Strauss described the benefits of a scooter-share program perfectly: "It allows you to move as quickly as you need to without exerting effort that will make you sweaty when you appear at the destination you're going to."
But really, the point of scooter-share is that it provides another micromobility option for Seattleites. Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who waxed poetic about resiliently not owning a car since he was an undergrad in college, explained the issue perfectly.
People like Lewis who don't have cars do so by "arranging their lives in a way to be multi-modal and transit oriented," Lewis said. The future of that lifestyle, Lewis explained, "is going to depend on having more options like scooters and like bikeshares and I think it’s time the city of Seattle tried this out."