Whether you view them as the future of multimodal micro-mobility or sidewalk-cluttering tickets to the emergency room, electric scooters are about to change downtown Phoenix. Well, for at least six months.
The city launched a pilot program today with three app-based scooter companies that will run until March 16, 2020. Sort of like a try-before-you-buy deal, but instead of jeans, it's a massive, sharing economy system, and instead of your butt, it's the fifth biggest city in the United States.
Let's face it though: Big Tech innovations that sweep the country don't typically disappear from your neighborhood after half a year. Count on Phoenix becoming a Scooter City. Sit with the thought. Make peace with your new reality.
Done? Here's what you need to know to ride scooters Phoenix without being an asshole, breaking the law, or dying:
How many scooters will be on the streets?
The city is allowing up to 300 scooters for each of the three companies participating in the pilot program. According to my calculator, that's up to 900 scooters scattered around downtown Phoenix at any given time.
Tell me about the scooter companies coming to Scooter City.
There's Lime, a Silicon Valley startup known for strong-arming its way into cities with little regard for local regulations. Lime's scooters are black and green.
There's Bird, a Silicon Valley startup known for strong-arming its way into cities with little regard for local regulations. Bird's scooters are black and white.
There's Spin, a Silicon Valley startup slightly less known for strong-arming its way into cities with little regard for local regulations. Spin's scooters are black and orange.
How do I get a scooter to scoot?
First, you'll need to download an app. Each company has its own. Each app has a map that tells you where the scooters are located. Enter your credit card information, follow the instructions, (which typically involve some passcode-entering or QR-scanning), and be on your merry scooter way.
How fast do the scooters scoot?
Up to 15 miles per hour.
How much do they cost?
Usually around $1 to start a session, plus a small fee per hour of riding. Prepare for fees in the ballpark range of $5 to $10 for short rides. Fees vary, so check your app before you ride.
Where in Phoenix may I scoot?
Parts of downtown only. Here's a map (red areas, such as Arizona State University property, are scooter-restricted):
What happens if I scoot outside the scooter boundary or in scooter-restricted zones?
Your scooter will gradually slow down to four miles per hour, at which point you might as well walk. It might also vibrate or make funny noises.
Upon what surfaces may I scoot?
You may scoot only on roads and in bike lanes. Scooting on the sidewalk is illegal.
What happens if the cops catch me scooting on the sidewalk?
Technically, they can write you a ticket for up to $250. There will be an unspecified grace period before cops start enforcing the scootering-on-the-sidewalk law, according to Phoenix Police spokesperson Sergeant Vince Lewis.
"Officers do have discretion in most cases when a citation is being considered," Lewis said. "We will all take time to understand how to operate safely on and next to the roadways. This is the essence of education first. I don't have a time frame for this."
Where may I park my scooter?
You must park scooters in one of the city's designated parking areas, of which there will be around 400. The apps will tell you where they are.
What happens if I park outside a designated parking area?
You won't be able to end your scoot session, meaning the app will continue to charge you.
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What if I see an improperly parked scooter?
Report it to the scooter company! Use the app or contact the number on the scooter. The company will have two hours to properly park the scooter or face penalties.
What happens to the scooters at night?
The companies are prohibited from having scooters on the streets between midnight and 5 a.m. During that time, its employees and contractors will be storing and charging them. If you're interested in becoming a scooter charger, it's a pretty low-barrier "job!" Google it.
How can I scoot safely?
One in every 5,000 trips will result in an injured rider. Don't be one of them: Wear a helmet. Don't drink and scoot. Yield to pedestrians. Follow traffic laws.
Now excuse me just one minute. I'm a driver and nobody consulted me about this "pilot program." I already blare my horn at spandex-wearing bike snobs and now you're telling me I have to sit behind these dinky toys, too? This whole city is going to —
Share the road, motherfucker.