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SALT LAKE CITY — It’s hard not to notice the electric scooters that people have used to buzz through city blocks for a good chunk of the summer now.
Between Lime and Bird, the scooters seem to be wherever you go downtown since June. They will remain in the city until about the winter time before they are expected to return next spring, according to Salt Lake City transportation director Jonathan Larsen.
By then, there could be more dockless mobility options in the city as other companies are looking to venture into the Beehive State, according to a Deseret News report last week.
The scooters currently available, on the other hand, have had mixed reviews since their arrival, but Larsen said his office has received generally positive feedback.
“It’s nice to have a nice, refreshing breeze of air, wind in your face and also, it’s just faster," Salt Lake resident Eno Augustine-Akpan told KSL TV back on Aug. 1.
Utah-based analytics company Qualtrics released results of a survey they had conducted regarding consumer opinion on Aug. 14. Out of the more than 500 respondents, it found that 60 percent of people who responded say they use scooters at least once a week and 57 percent felt somewhat to extremely likely to replace their current mode of transportation.
In addition, two-thirds of all respondents said they felt the scooters had a somewhat to extremely positive impact on the environment. In all, more than half said they believe scooter sharing is a lasting innovation, and the majority said it was more convenient and useful than bike sharing options downtown.
While the city hasn’t received a report of a serious crash so far, safety remains a top concern for residents.
The Qualtrics survey found that, at 29 percent, the main reason people wouldn’t ride a scooter is because they believe they are unsafe. At least one-third of riders said they are very concerned about safety. The highest amount of those, 41 percent, came from people who ride on sidewalks only. Fifty-six percent of drivers said they are more nervous to drive in cities with scooters present.
Larsen said he believes most of the safety concerns are from people who feel uneasy seeing the scooters buzz around the streets. That’s also why the city asked both companies to come up with a safety action plan by the end of August that would focus on where people are allowed to ride.
“Both companies should be providing us some ideas what they are planning to do to address (sidewalk etiquette) specifically,” Larsen said.
Meanwhile, the city continues to urge riders to be safe while riding the scooters.
Lime advises riders must be at least 16 years old to use the scooters, while Bird advises riders must be 18 years old or older with a valid driver’s license, according to its website.
Ride on streets, not sidewalks
The city requires by law that all scooters be ridden on streets and not sidewalks, just like bicycles. That said, Larsen said he can see a reason to briefly use a sidewalk, such as road congestion or blockage, although he still encourages riders not to ride on sidewalks.
“If you’re going to use the sidewalk, go down to walking speed until you can get back onto the bike lane and then open up the throttle,” he said.
Both companies also advise riders to only ride on the sidewalk if it’s legal.
“Do not ride on sidewalks other than as permitted by law. Use bike lanes when available and permitted by law,” Lime writes in a message that pops up for people who use the company’s app.
Bird offers a similar message, which states, “No riding on sidewalks unless local law requires or permits — it endangers members of our community who want to walk freely. … Ride in bike lanes or close to the right curb.”
Riders must also follow street signs and signals.
Salt Lake City has no law requiring a helmet while riding a bike or scooter, though Larsen said the city often encourages helmet use.
“For now, that’s probably the right stance on scooters, but maybe not? Maybe we need to require them on scooters — that’s something we will continue to explore,” he said.
Bird suggests on its website that riders should wear a helmet, and offers helmets to users, who are charged shipping costs. The app also states riders must take at least one ride to qualify for a helmet.
Lime, on the other hand, requires riders under 18 to wear a helmet and for riders to follow local laws. The company’s app gives users the option to request a helmet.
In its app, Lime asks riders to park in "accessible spaces such as curbsides or by bike racks" and not in areas that block sidewalks, ramps or other pedestrian walkways.
Bird suggests the same, adding that people should not block driveways, access ramps or fire hydrants, and to avoid grass, gravel, rocks or any other uneven surfaces. It suggests people should park close to a curb, trees or street signs and that the scooter's kickstand is used.
Both companies require only one person on a scooter at all times.