EVERETT — The rentable electric scooters that have been whizzing through Everett are likely to stick around.
In mid-May, Lime, one of the nation’s leading scooter-rental and bike-share companies, launched a three-month pilot program dropping 100 e-scooters on city streets. Since then the fleet has doubled, as safety concerns persisted.
More than 28,000 rides by more than 8,000 users have been taken in the city during the trial run. Usage has been concentrated in the downtown and north Everett areas, according to data Lime presented to the Everett City Council on Wednesday night.
“Ridership has exceeded our expectations,” said Jonathan Hopkins, Lime’s head of Northwest strategic development.
Several councilmembers spoke in favor of allowing the scooters to become a permanent part on the city’s landscape, but also wanted to see a reduction on improper riding, such as scooters being used on the sidewalk. Users are also required to wear a helmet, but few do.
“This is here to stay, it’s our future,” Councilmember Jeff Moore said.
Scooters are a great alternative to Everett Transit, said Kevin Phan, a daily rider who often uses them to get to work.
He would like to see better infrastructure in the city, such as bike lanes, to give users a more secure place on the roadway.
“No one really wants to ride on the sidewalks and dodge pedestrians,” Phan said after the meeting.
Many riders aren’t aware scooters aren’t allowed to be used on the sidewalks.
During the trial period, the city wasn’t aggressively ticketing riders who were riding improperly, according to the city.
A vast number of riders just don’t know the rules, said Police Chief Dan Templeman, which makes it difficult to write tickets.
“Certainly if this was adopted over time we would take a different approach, especially as education permeates the community,” he said.
Councilmember Paul Roberts wants to continue to allow the scooters, but said the city needs to make it clear it’s serious about the rules.
“We need to come up with some enforcement mechanism that helps us address, particularly sidewalk use, but other safety issues as well,” he said.
Lime suggested the city could add sidewalk stamps to inform riders that they need to use streets and bike lanes. Or it could require individual vehicle identification numbers on scooters — similar to a license plate — to cut down on improper riding.
To help educate riders, the company held a First Academy event last weekend. The next is scheduled for Aug. 24.
During the trial run, at least four riders were involved in a collision, with three sustaining some level of injury, according to the city.
Half of the accidents occurred on the sidewalk; the rest happened in the street.
One of the collisions involved an Everett High School student, who was hit by a truck after running a stop sign on a downtown street.
A Centers for Disease Control report found few scooter riders wear a helmet, which could have prevented many of the injuries. Head injuries topped the list reported by riders in the study.
The emergency department at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett is seeing a similar trend, according to medical director Dr. Ryan Keay.
Head injuries are the most common type seen in Everett, she said.
“All the patients that have come in — I know of — weren’t wearing a helmet,” Keay said.
Alcohol has also played a factor in some accidents.
She encourages helmet use on any scooter or bike.
“It’s one thing you can do to prevent serious head injury,” she said.
Before hopping on, riders should also be aware they might be on the hook for any damages or injuries caused by an accident.
Health insurance would cover the rider, said Kara Klotz, a spokesperson for the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, but they could be responsible for injuries to others or property damage.
Riders shouldn’t assume they have coverage. People should call their insurance providers, Klotz said.
“You may get sued if you cause an accident or hit a pedestrian,” she said.
The battery-powered scooters cost riders $1 to unlock and 25 cents per minute thereafter.
They do not require a docking station at the end of the ride. Rather, riders are supposed to leave them in the “furniture zone” — the space between the curb and the sidewalk — where flowerpots, light poles and bike racks are located.