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Scooters are still set to return to Chicago this summer

During a press conference, Mayor Lightfoot mentioned that the city's second pilot program is still on schedule.

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

Last summer, Chicagoans got their first taste of shared e-scooters as 10 vendors distributed hundreds of the two-wheeled vehicles throughout the city's Northwest and West Sides as part of a four-month pilot program that was generally well-received (a survey conducted by the city found that 59% of respondents thought that e-scooter companies should continue operating in Chicago, though notably, only 21% of non-riders supported continuing the scooter program while 84% of riders expressed support). In January, the city recommended a second e-scooter pilot program be implemented in 2020, building on the lessons learned during the 2019 and gathering additional data about how additional transportation options can help Chicagoans—but that was well before the Illinois "stay-at-home" order was announced at the end of March, making it unclear if sending residents zipping through the streets on scooters was still a priority for the city.

This morning, Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded to a question about closing some of Chicago's streets to cars—replicating the "open streets" strategy that has already been implemented in major cities like Seattle, New York, Minneapolis and San Francisco—and confirmed that e-scooters will return to the city's streets this summer. "The scooter program will be up in an expanded pilot over the course of the summer. We're meeting with our Chicago Department of Transportation, planning, as well as the CTA, to give people a variety of options so that they can get around the city, and safely," Lightfoot said.

Details of the second e-scooter pilot program have not yet been officially released by CDOT, but a report from the Sun-Times in late February confirmed that only two or three of the 10 companies that participated in the initial pilot will be selected to return in 2020. Additionally, the report found that the city is in favor of a "lock-to" requirement, meaning that all e-scooters must have the ability to be locked to public racks or placed in a dock or corral at the end of a ride, reducing the number of e-scooters that are left on sidewalks and other public places. It's also likely that the area covered by the scooter program (which was geofenced to a section of the city's Northwest and West Sides in 2019) will be expanded in 2020.

CDOT has not yet announced when it plans to relaunch the e-scooter program this summer or how it will address some of the criticisms of the initial pilot, like reducing the number of emergency room visits due to scooter-related injuries (there were 192 in 2019, according to city data) and courting a more diverse ridership (72% of riders surveyed by the city were white, and a study conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that only 14.7% of rider took place in the 2019 pilot's two priority areas where Latino and Black residents are concentrated).

There's also the issue of sanitation—you're going to want to bring along some sanitizing wipes and a mask before you hop on a shared e-scooter in Chicago this summer.

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