EVERETT — Lime scooters are on hiatus this year in Snohomish County’s most populous city.
Yet somehow the electric two-wheel rides started popping up around downtown Everett in the past week and are not technically part of the city-approved rollout from last summer.
Coronavirus’ persistent threat is at fault for denying people a scoot from the Delta neighborhood into downtown this summer.
“The city put a pause on the scooter program for 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns,” Everett spokesperson Julio Cortes said in an email.
Their sudden appearances were likely from people putting the scooters, which weigh about 40 pounds, on a bus or in a car from Bothell, the only other city in Snohomish County that allows them.
Taking I-405 and I-5, it’s about 18 miles between downtown Bothell and downtown Everett. Given that the scooters can’t reach highway speeds, that’s an unlikely ride. Using side streets, the scooter trip would be longer. Fully charged, their average max distance is about 25 miles.
“On a very rare occasion people find a way to put one on a bus,” Lime strategic development director for Canada and the Northwest U.S. Jonathan Hopkins said. “We think one went from Bothell to Tacoma as well.”
Lime operates as a smartphone or mobile device app that shows the location of their nearby scooters, which charge use and mileage fees. Bothell and Everett both receive money from Lime when the scooter programs take effect. Per Everett’s deal, the company paid the city $500 for a one-time fee and $0.10 for every trip. Bothell’s is similar.
“It’s not very much,” Bothell economic development manager Jeanie Ashe said. “Nobody’s getting rich, not in the city of Bothell anyway.”
Where one person’s trip ends, another rider’s can begin. Amid a global pandemic from the new coronavirus, the shared use worried Everett’s leaders.
Lime representatives said people should feel safe riding the shared-use scooters. Risk of catching the disease through surfaces, though possible, appears to be lower than directly from an infected person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The scooters “are being fully sanitized by our operations team,” Lime communications director for North America and the United Kingdom Russell Murphy said.
But they’re not able to sanitize them every time a scooter changes hands. Taking the CDC-recommended precautions of regular and thorough hand washing or use of sanitizer, not touching your face or mouth and proper face covering are advised.
About four dozen people called “juicers” gathered the battery powered transports for overnight charging and morning distribution around Everett last year. Now they also are encouraged — but not required — by Lime to clean them.
The Bothell City Council unanimously approved Lime’s request to resume operations in June. It came after a pilot program last year that the city (the smallest served by Lime) and the company considered successful, with 6,000 different riders between July and November.
They briefly returned in March before COVID-19 put the brakes on those plans.
“It’s nice to have some tiny semblance of normalcy,” Bothell City Councilmember Mason Thompson said at the June 9 meeting. “Like, even though it’s just a little one, I’m all in for this.”
Since June 19 when 100 scooters were placed in Bothell, Hopkins said ridership is higher than expected and trips are longer than last year.
The company sees its foot scooters as a complement to other transportation options and a “last-mile” connection for people to public transit.
They’re also a source of entertainment at a time when other recreation is unavailable. “You hear stories of shortages or people having trouble finding bicycles, so I think this is another additional way for people to get out and have some fun,” Bothell Mayor Liam Olsen said.
Bothell staff are working on finalizing rules for the scooter program to be year-round later this year.
In May 2019, Everett agreed to a three-month pilot program for the scooters. At first, 100 scooters were spread around the city, but high demand prompted the company to deploy another 100. During that trial period, a Lime spokesperson said the scooters had 28,000 trips by more than 8,000 riders.
During the winter as ridership dropped and weather turned, Lime pulled its scooters from Everett. At that point Lime had about 12,000 riders, Hopkins said.
The company is willing to bring them to Everett whenever the city is ready. But that may not be for another year.
“We do plan to explore bringing the scooter program back for 2021, but that will be determined at a later date,” Cortes said.
Everett’s deal with Lime requires that the scooters be removed nightly from the city, where they often are left on sidewalks or other public rights of way. Lime riders must follow Everett’s regulations, such as not riding on the sidewalk downtown, following the speed limit and keeping pedestrian space accessible.
As of Sunday, there was one Lime scooter in Everett.