Get Ready for a Swarm of Rental Scooters—the Next Thing You’ll Hate About New Portland

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has invited five companies to pilot e-scooters in the city.

Photo via Lime's Facebook.

Starting this summer, Portland will be the latest testing ground for fleets of dockless e-scooters.

In a May 29 letter to five different scooter companies—Skip, Spin, LimeBike, Bird and Goat—commissioner Dan Saltzman announced plans for a four-month e-scooter pilot project, which will start this summer.

As the Oregonian first reported, the pilot program will mirror Biketown by allowing customers rent a scooter with their smart phone. But because they are dockless, the scooters can be dropped off anywhere in the city.

In the cities where e-scooter's have been unveiled—like Los Angeles and San Francisco—careless riders have sparked livid backlash by haphazardly dropping off scooters wherever they please.

"Cities have been shocked to discover that thousands of electric scooters have been dropped onto their sidewalks seemingly overnight," a recent New York Times article notes. "Often, the companies ignored all the usual avenues of getting city approval to set up shop."

Dylan Rivera, a spokesperson for PBOT, told The Oregonian that the city is proceeding cautiously in attempts to avoid suffering the same fate as California. Rivera said the city doesn't want to see "dozens, if not hundreds of scooters" dumped around.

During the trial period, Saltzman's letter outlines, companies will be required to "report on and mitigate impacts" related to pedestrian safety, scooter access for people with disabilities, compliance with state laws and anonymized trip data (origin, destination, length).

While LimeBike and others are invited to trail scooter programs in Portland, Saltzman—wary of transportation companies after Uber steamrolled into town with deceptive practices in 2014—says that any company that begins operation without city approval will be fined and have scooters confiscated.

Saltzman's caution is well-founded, critics of shared e-scooter programs note, as Portland still lacks functional bike lanes in parts of the city and scooters aren't allowed on sidewalks.

Those concerns don't faze Gabriel Scheer, director of development for LimeBike, the Silicon Valley-based e-scooter company.

Scheer told The Oregonian, "Let's go to Cully. Let's go to Lents. Let's go to the areas that aren't being served by Biketown," adding that data on ridership habits could prompt bike lane infrastructure improvements in areas like East Portland.

So look forward to a summer of dodging tourists e-scooting on Portland sidewalks. But also maybe snag one yourself and test it out by rolling through a Burgerville drive thru. 

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.