E-scooters storm into downtown Portland
Hundreds of Portlanders are trying out the new electric scooters darting about the streets of downtown Portland.
Three e-scooter companies — LimeBike, Bird and Skip — were issued permits on Wednesday, July 25 or Thursday, July 26 for a four-month trial period ending on Nov. 20.
Users must download a company-specific smartphone app to purchase time on a scooter, with current rates set at about 15 cents a minute plus a $1 unlocking fee. Helmets are not provided but are legally required, and only those 16 or older are allowed to ride them on the roads.
It was clear that the novelty factor hadn't worn off by Saturday, July 28, as dozens of scooter operators could be seen zipping along the Better Naito section of Southwest Naito Parkway.
Others dared to ride among the crowds filling the Waterfront Park Trail, where the scooters are banned (as they are on all other city parks and sidewalks).
"They're super fun," said Sam Kane during his first-ever ride on Naito. "I'd use it pretty regularly in the summertime, especially as an alternative to Uber."
Kane said he thought his Bird scooter was clocking in at 20 miles per hour downhill, though he said their performance is significantly weaker when traveling back up.
"I'm not getting openly sweaty during my commute, as I would with a bike," added scooter user Caitlin Drost. "Being aware of your surroundings is really important."
Whether the electric scooters will prove to be efficient addition to the transportation network — or an e-scourge of epic proportions — remains to be seen.
The rentable two-wheelers are banned in San Francisco, despite the fact that they initially caught on around California beaches and boardwalks, which are relatively dense and flat. Official concerns include the fact that the scooters can be "docked" anywhere, leading to irksome clusters on the sidewalk or even toppled over piles in the street.
That's probably what an anonymous Portland Bureau of Transportation staffer was thinking about when he or she used an official social media account to write that "they're toys that tech bros leave lazily strewn about, blocking corner ramps needed for people with disabilities."
The Bureau later apologized for the snarkiness and said the message didn't reflect its views.
It's reportedly possible to receive a citation for driving under the influence of intoxicants while piloting an electric scooter — or for failing to use a helmet — though that doesn't appear to have happened yet.
The scooter system also creates a new opening in the gig economy for chargers who will collect and re-charge the scooters each night, as most of the scooter companies do not allow rentals after dark.
The Tribune's tech reporter, Joseph Gallivan, travelled to Venice Beach to learn about the lifestyle of so-called scooter "juicers." You can read his report here.