Scooter sharing gets a test drive in Chicago

Scooter sharing gets a test drive in Chicago
People use Lime electric scooters in Paris on July 9, 2018. (Francois Guillot / AFP-Getty Images)

First there was car sharing. Then bike sharing. Now a business — whose newest investor is Uber — is test-driving scooter sharing in Chicago.

Lime, the California-based dockless bike-sharing company known as LimeBike, offered up its electric scooters during last weekend’s Sheffield Music Festival and Garden Walk. Roughly 40 scooters were available to festgoers.


More electric scooters will be up for grabs at festivals over the next several weekends, according to Lime. Although the company is not announcing in advance at which festivals the scooters will be available, a spokesman said the company hopes to try them out throughout the city.

Gabriel Scheer, director of strategic development at Lime, said from the response of those at the Sheffield Music Festival he thinks Chicagoans will welcome the new mode of transit.

“It’s like any new technology. It’s intimidating, it’s scary,” Scheer said. “I think 120 years ago there was somebody sitting on a horse thinking, what are these cars doing in our cities? … And here we are saying, cars are the norm, of course we want this.”

Lime operates in about 70 cities, but Chicago will be the first Illinois location with scooters.

Scheer said the scooters can help combat climate change and traffic congestion and improve transportation equity and access.

After the trial runs, Lime hopes to fully launch its dockless scooter program with the city’s approval.

However, Scheer said, “as far as the scooters, we have been told that CDOT (the Chicago Department of Transportation) is not working on it right now.”

CDOT issued a statement that seemingly contradicted that: “Chicago is always exploring the latest technology to see how it (can) better serve the needs of our residents. We are developing policies appropriate for Chicago and are continuing to explore the impact of e-scooters on city streets.

The department currently is overseeing new dockless bike-share programs. Lime was among the companies that unsuccessfully lobbied the city to eliminate a lock requirement for bikes that discourages users from carelessly parking bikes.

The city wants dockless bike operators to equip cycles with “lock-to” technology that allows cyclists to lock the bike to something when they’re done with a trip. LimeBike and another dockless bike operator known as Ofo use wheel locks. In late June, the city allowed the two companies to continue operating 50 bikes each in a pilot program. But the companies were not allowed to add more bikes; competitors with lock-to technology can have up to 350 bikes each.

Like dockless bike-sharing, Lime’s dockless scooters run the risk of cluttering sidewalks and being strewn about streets, but Scheer said one solution is working with riders to help them learn how to park appropriately.

“As a company we have a big role to play in teaching people how to do it right,” he said.

Lime scooters can be unlocked from an app. There’s a $1 initial cost and then 15 cents for each additional minute of use. When riders finish their trips, the scooters can be parked on sidewalks and are self-locking via the app. At the end of the day, Lime plans to pick up the scooters, take them back to a warehouse for charging and then redistribute them.

The scooters will also eventually be available on the Uber mobile app, following the ride-share company’s recent investment in Lime.


Lakeview resident Beth Kovars tried the scooters when she was visiting Dallas. She said it was a challenge to track one down but that it was a convenient way to get around.

“The scooters were tons of fun,” she said. “I definitely felt like I should have been wearing a helmet though. It got up to 20 mph.”

And the scooter trend is on the rise.

Adrienne Appell, spokeswoman for the Toy Association, said there’s been an increase in scooter popularity over the past couple of years because they’re more compact and often cheaper than bicycles.

“To carry it home on the ‘L’ is not that big of a deal,” Appell said.

And, said Appell, “They trickle down from the kids. A lot of parents are getting scooters so they can keep up with their kids in an urban environment.”

Twitter @morgreene