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In this July 1, 2018 photo people ride Lime and Bird scooters along the strand in Santa Monica, Calif.
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In this July 1, 2018 photo people ride Lime and Bird scooters along the strand in Santa Monica, Calif.
Credit: AP Photo/Richard Vogel

Seattle: Scooters are dangerous. Tacoma: Wheeeee!

Seattle won't allow electric Lime scooters, but just south in Tacoma, they're legal. We checked them out.

So, how unsafe are these scooters?

In September, electric scooter company Lime scattered dozens of them throughout downtown Tacoma.

One complaint about dockless bikes is that they block sidewalks. But these scooters are smaller. They take up less space and have a little kick stand so you don't need to lean it up anywhere.

Lime says their scooters have a top speed of 15 mph. With a slight downhill, I was easily reaching 20 mph.
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Lime says their scooters have a top speed of 15 mph. With a slight downhill, I was easily reaching 20 mph.
Credit: KUOW PHOTO/CASEY MARTIN


"I like them. I actually used the scooter and the electric bike a couple of weeks ago just to go to 6th Ave and go to a bar," said downtown resident Eric Jones.

"They're a great idea and I'm surprised that Seattle banned them because I thought that they'd be a little more keen to the idea than Tacoma," Jones said.

Jones's friend Tyler Poch hadn't tried one yet.

"I want one of these!" Poch said.

How does it feel riding one?

"I haven't ridden a scooter in a long time," Poch said. "A Razor was the last thing I rode. So if someone gets some practice on this thing, you can go places."

Lime says the scooters have a top speed of 15 miles per hour, but a sample ride felt faster — closer to 18 or 19 miles.

Where are you supposed to ride the scooters?

When you start your Lime scooter, you're told to always ride in the bike lane and not on sidewalks.

But, as is sometimes the problem for bicyclists, what happens where there is no bike lane?

If the street is quiet and wide without a lot of parked cars, it makes sense to ride on the side of the road.

If it's a busy road, it does feel safer to ride on the sidewalk, which is not desirable.

Another requirement of scooters: You have to wear a helmet.

But they're not provided. We spotted scooter-riders without helmets.

Also prohibited: multiple riders. We saw that happen, too.

Folks in Tacoma said they think these scooters will be more popular with tourists, not locals.

If Seattle did get electric scooters, would they be welcomed at tourist spots?

To find out, we went to Alki Beach.

Hundreds of bright green bikes lined the pedestrian path along the beach.

That's where we met Mary Jordan, a passerby, who was picking up a couple of bikes that had been knocked down on a windy day.

"I just like picking them up, putting them next to each other, and putting the little kickstand up," Jordan said.

She said she'd love to see the scooters at Alki.

KUOW asked Jordan if she's concerned about scooters blocking the path, like the bikes she picked up.

A screenshot from the Lime app. On startup it tells you not to ride the scooters on sidewalks.
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A screenshot from the Lime app. On startup it tells you not to ride the scooters on sidewalks.
Credit: KUOW PHOTO/CASEY MARTIN

"No, I don't think about it at all," Jordan said. "I worry about them buzzing people and scaring people, but that's the same for e-bikes. That's why I don't ride on the trail, I ride on the road. Which the cars probably hate."

(Speaking from KUOW's ride in Tacoma, cars do not like scooters in the road.)

So should scooters be on the sidewalk?

"Before we introduce the scooters, they really need to determine how they get used," said Stu Hennessey, owner of the Alki Bicycle Company.

"I'm sure there's going to be more sidewalk usage on electric scooters than on electric bikes," Hennessey said.

He's a fan of anything that gets people out of cars, but he doesn't want to see the program rushed.

"Now's the time to think about the problems before they occur and address them before we introduce," Hennessey said.

Hennessey also worries that at only $1 per ride, sidewalks will become scooter playgrounds for kids.

The city of Seattle is holding off on scooters until these safety concerns can be addressed. Lime, meanwhile, is pushing the city to allow them and sent out a petition to its riders earlier this month.

So far, 3,200 riders have signed in support.

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