Lyft and Lime scooters aren’t supposed to ride on sidewalks, Denver residents say city doesn’t enforce rules


Electric scooters are set up to be micro-mobility dream machines. The dockless vehicles, accessible with a few taps on a smartphone, provide a convenient, affordable option for commuters, tourists and others cover the last mile between transit stops and their destinations.

In downtown Denver, they can also be the source of nightmares. Downtown residents and City Councilman Chris Hinds are looking at ways to deliver a wake-up call including possibly commanding scooter companies to clamp down on where and how fast scooters can scoot in the urban core.

“Great idea. Really poor execution,” LoDo resident Robin Finegan of the two-wheeled vehicles that can cruise at 15 mph.  “It happens at least once a week where I come so close to either being hit or my dog being hit. We’re being terrorized down here. Just terrorized.”

Finegan, the chair of the Lower Downtown Neighborhood Association’s pedestrian safety committee, is not alone in seeing scooters as a scourge when they’re buzzing down busy sidewalks in violation of city ordinance.

Chris Nicholson lives near the intersection of 17th and Champa streets on the eastern end of downtown and says he has to look both ways when stepping out the front door of his building onto the sidewalk to ensure he won’t be run over.

“You can absolutely go to the emergency room getting knocked over by people on a scooter going full speed,” Nicholson said. “There’s a certain level of safety that one assumes when they’re on the sidewalks. We have given that away.”

Both Nicholson and Finegan have been in touch with Hinds, whose council district includes the downtown adjacent neighborhoods of Civic Center Capitol Hill, and North Capitol Hill, or Uptown. Hinds uses a wheelchair and says he sometimes feels unsafe when scooter riders pass him on the sidewalk.

“There are some folks that are more sensitive of pedestrians than others,” Hinds said. “There are also certainly some folks who go the maximum speed on the sidewalk and don’t care about anyone else who might be on the sidewalk.”

Over the last few weeks, Hinds has been gathering feedback from constituents and information from city agencies and medical care providers about the impact of scooters.

In a recent email exchange with officials from Denver Health Medical Center — just one of the city’s hospitals — Hinds learned that between Jan. 1, 2021 and May 15 of this year, the emergency room and urgent care facilities there saw 1,314 scooter injuries. That’s more than 2.5 per day. Denver Health officials cautioned that some of those cases were people injured falling out of mobility scooters like the ones seen at a grocery store. A vast majority were electric scooters being ridden on city streets and sidewalks, hospital officials said.

In a District 10 newsletter he sent out on May 26, Hinds asked constituents to vote whether they felt scooters are good for Denver or if they are a menace. The issue is more nuanced than a binary choice, Hinds knowns. He’s looking for a middle ground solution, he told The Denver Post. But based on the feedback he received — of the more than 1,300 people who responded 59% chose the “menace” option — he is considering taking action.

Specifically, Hinds is looking into a new ordinance that would build off the one the city council unanimously adopted in January 2019 to manage scooter use. Hinds’ ordinance could take cues from other cities grappling with scooter problems like San Francisco and San Jose, California, where scooter operators are required to use technology that detects when scooters are being ridden on sidewalks and slows them down or stops them entirely.

“Exactly what the sidewalk detection technology does is a different answer,” Hinds said. “Does it emit annoying beeps? Does it slow the scooter down to 6 mph? Does the technology totally stop the scooter? I don’t know yet.”

Hinds said a number of providers are touting the effectiveness of GPS-based sidewalk detection technology for their scooters and micro-mobility vehicles. They include Lime, which, along with Lyft, is one of the two companies permitted to provide scooter and e-bike services in Denver today. Between Lyft and Lime, the city has permitted up to 4,688 scooters on the city streets and up to 938 electric bikes.

A person rides an electric scooter ...

Jintak Han, The Denver Post

A person rides an electric scooter in downtown Denver, Friday, June 10, 2022.


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