Warmer temps in Minneapolis mean a return of the motorized scooters that took the city by storm last summer. In an acknowledgement that they are here to stay (at least until the next rideshare craze), the city of Minneapolis has launched a pilot program to set best practices.
The year-long program is aimed at determining how best to position scooters as a long-term viable transportation option for the city. Minneapolis selected four participating companies for the pilot: Jump, Lyft, Spin, and Lime.
“We’re thrilled that our application has been approved," says a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Lime. "We look forward to returning to Minneapolis and furthering our commitment to more affordable, equitable transportation for all."
Per terms of the license agreements for all providers, the number of scooters allowed in the city is capped at 2,000, with each company getting an equal share of that total fleet size. No more than 800 scooters will be allowed in the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods, and at least 600 scooters must be available in lower-income areas including north, northeast, and south Minneapolis.
The new program comes after a summer in which motorized scooters, often called e-scooters——exploded onto Twin Cities streets seemingly overnight, particularly those from California-based Bird Rides Inc., leaving the municipalities scrambling to figure out regulations for the vehicles.
When Bird arrived on scene early last summer, Minneapolis had already begun developing an ordinance for parking and licensing rules, so it was able to vote on it fairly quickly, while St. Paul asked the company to remove its fleet until regulations could be formulated.
St. Paul’s request was in vain, as Bird kept its scooters on the streets through the season. There’s been no indication, though, that Bird plans to return to the city this year, and St. Paul hasn’t struck a deal with any other electric vehicle operator yet.
So, as it stands, you won’t find either e-bikes or e-scooters in St. Paul, even as the other half of the Twin Cities sees Nice Ride bikes roll out and the scooter pilot program begin.
The Minneapolis pilot program aligns with the work of the Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan update, a 10-year strategy to implement alternative transportation options that address various issues including climate, safety, and socioeconomic equity.
The pilot program is paying particular attention to socioeconomic equity, with a requirement that operators offer low-income pricing programs and alternative access options (like making them payable by cash) for people who don’t have smartphones.
In regards to safety concerns, operators must provide education and outreach to consumers on safe riding and parking practices. Per state laws, scooters must follow the same road rules as bicyclists, can’t be ridden on sidewalks, and must be parked upright outside of pedestrian walkway space.
"We are excited to able to offer Jump scooters in the Twin Cities and look forward to working with the City to roll out the pilot," says a Jump spokesperson.
Neither Jump, nor any of the operators have yet debuted their scooters in Minneapolis, but fleets are expected to hit the streets soon—within this spring.