Shared electric scooters continue spread in Denver suburbs, but safety a concern

Injuries abound in Denver; devices looked to as a traffic solution

Posted

At the start, the scooters arrived without permission. Now, the electric devices are continuing to spread to more metro-area cities, touted as a way to reduce traffic but also feared by some pedestrians who see them zooming down sidewalks.

“Electric scooters and bikes should only be ridden where bicycles are allowed to ride and should not be ridden on sidewalks unless actively parking, starting or ending a trip,” said Vanessa Lacayo, a spokesperson for Denver’s transportation department.

But officials are still trying to convince scooter users to stay off the sidewalk in Denver, a city where riding scooters irresponsibly is a common sight in the downtown area.

Starting this fall, Denver will test some ideas in the downtown area — where some of the highest ridership in the city takes place — to try to improve safety, Lacayo said.

The city recently finalized a stencil to place on some sidewalks to remind riders to keep the space clear for pedestrians, and officials also have used tech-based strategies to restrict or slow riders down in some busy areas, Lacayo said.

The scooters can mean more than a fun trip for riders and a nuisance for pedestrians — they're often involved in injuries.

In crowded Denver, the scooters people often see are the shared ones, which are accessible via cell phone applications and run slower than most car traffic. Lyft scooters, for example, go up to 15 mph, according to the company’s website.

The shared scooters recently spread to more suburban cities. Here’s a look at where they’re allowed, where they aren’t and what the rules are.

Right path

Denver’s ordinances, or city laws, say it’s unlawful to ride an electric scooter on a sidewalk at more than 6 mph.

Riding an electric scooter on sidewalks is unlawful except when preparing to park, or when the rider has just mounted and has not yet crossed a street or alley, or where the sidewalk is part of a designated bicycle route, Denver’s city law says.

In Denver, the scooter system has been automatically slowing down and stopping scooters on the 16th Street Mall and slowing them down near Coors Field during Rockies games when many pedestrians are around, Lacayo said.

An online map of scooter use in Denver, referred to by Lacayo, shows the rides are most concentrated in the downtown, central and northwest Denver areas — and some highly trafficked paths stretch close to Lakewood and Wheat Ridge.

Riders in Denver have traveled roughly 11 million miles, according to the city, which estimates the ridership removed millions of driving trips from Denver’s busiest streets and neighborhoods since 2018.

No program in Lakewood

Shared scooters first appeared on a large scale in the City of Denver in May 2018 without authorization from the city’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure to operate, according to Lacayo.

Shortly after, the department ordered scooter operators to suspend their operations while the city developed a permitting process. Denver’s permit program launched in July 2018 to guide how the scooters can be used in the city, Lacayo said.

Nearby, shared scooters are only permitted in some Denver suburbs, but that doesn’t stop them from sometimes ending up where they shouldn’t be.

“Electric scooters and bikes end up in Sheridan mostly by the bus stops or in River Point,” an outdoor mall, Sheridan spokesperson Amy Woodward said.

Sheridan does not have a shared scooter program and does not have any ordinances or regulations surrounding the use of them, Woodward said.

Before Lakewood had enacted any regulations, some shared scooters were deployed in Lakewood in 2018, according to that city.

“We have a pretty good relationship with most companies, and we call to have devices removed when we notice them in Lakewood,” said Stacie Oulton, Lakewood spokesperson.

No licensed scooter companies currently operate in Lakewood, so “personal scooters are mostly what you see in Lakewood,” Oulton said.

Lakewood has required companies to get a license and comply with regulations since 2019, but no company so far has decided to apply for a license, according to Oulton.

“In Lakewood, bicycles are allowed on sidewalks and paths, so scooters are also allowed (in those places),” Oulton said. “They can also ride in bike lanes or streets — just like a bike. In locations we don’t want scooters or bikes, we would install signs with the restriction.”

Scooters leave Littleton, Aurora

In the south metro area, Littleton started a partnership with Bird, another shared scooter company — but the “pilot,” or test, program recently ended.

“The one-year Bird Pilot Program began in August 2021 to explore whether dockless e-scooters could provide ‘micromobility’ — an additional mode of travel for Littleton residents to replace short vehicle trips, especially in the downtown (Littleton) neighborhood,” a statement from the city said.

Bird’s local fleet manager, tasked with collecting, charging and servicing the scooters, appears to have stopped doing so in mid-June, leaving many scooters with dead batteries and “therefore impossible to locate remotely,” the statement said.

Littleton city officials have asked for the public’s help tracking down missing scooters. Those who find a scooter should email traffic@littletongov.org with the location, the statement said.

The pilot program was scheduled to end Aug. 18, but Bird decided to end the program in late July, the statement said.

Bird no longer had a local fleet manager for Littleton and, because of that, decided to end the program early, according to Shane Roberts, a transportation planner for the City of Littleton.

“Arapahoe County will be conducting a county-wide transit and micromobility study in the near future, with Littleton as a partner agency,” the city's statement added. “Future micromobility programs in Littleton will wait until the study is complete.”

Bird also shut down its scooter operations in Aurora as of early August, according to Michael Brannen, an Aurora spokesperson.

"Rental demand in Aurora did not meet their business expectations, and they had reported staffing issues," Brannen said.

No shared mobility devices are currently available in Aurora, but licenses remain available for new companies to apply, Aurora’s website adds.

Arvada ties program near RTD line

Northwest of Denver, the City of Arvada approved a pilot program for electric scooters in 2021 and has a contract with Bird for electric scooters to be used within a one-mile radius of the RTD G rail line. Arvada’s program with Bird began in January.

“The e-scooters are set to slow down once they get to the boundary line until they fully stop and are no longer operable,” said Katie Patterson, an Arvada spokesperson. “The e-scooters begin chirping and the rider’s phone will receive a notification that they are outside the operating area and redirect them back to where they are usable.”

Before moving forward with the program, the city underwent a research process with the Arvada Transportation Advisory Committee in 2019, followed by community meetings in 2020 and 2021, Patterson said.

Micromobility devices are not allowed on narrow sidewalks and riders should use the devices in the street and on designated bike lanes, similar to personal bicycles, according to Patterson.

The devices are allowed on City of Arvada trails, and users are responsible for following trail rules including giving audible signals when passing slower traffic, Patterson added.

In one notable recent scooter incident, a 10-year-old boy was killed in a traffic accident Sept. 17 on Candelas Parkway. The boy — an Arvada resident — was riding an electric scooter when he was struck by a Toyota Prius. The driver of the Toyota, identified only as a “male driver,” was cooperating with the investigation, according to the Arvada Police Department. The driver stayed on the scene as officers responded.

The scooter the boy was riding was store bought and privately owned, not a ride-sharing vehicle. 

To the city’s knowledge, no injuries or deaths related to shared electric scooters have occurred in Arvada since the scooters began circulating in Arvada, Patterson said.

Thornton adds scooters

North of Denver, a one-year pilot program for shared scooters began in Thornton on July 1.

“Electric scooters are to be ridden on streets with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or less, in bike lanes, trails and shared use paths,” said Kent Moorman, a transportation engineer for the City of Thornton.

The maximum speed under Colorado’s Model Traffic Code, incorporated into the Thornton City Code, for this class of vehicle is 20 mph, according to Moorman.

The scooters will bring some amount of tax revenue to Thornton, but numbers are unclear so far.

“Scooter companies are required to have a Thornton general business and sales tax license. We collect sales tax only,” Moorman said. “As this program just started July 1, we do not yet have revenue numbers for the city from electric scooters.”

Under Arvada’s mobility program, companies “must pay a yearly permit renewal fee of $5,000 based on Arvada staff time dedicated to management, oversight, communications, enforcement, and education (regarding) the program,” an Arvada regulations document says.

Denver apparently doesn’t collect revenue from its scooter program.

Lacayo, with the Denver transportation department, said no scooter companies paid Denver any type of license fee or other kind of payment, and that Denver does not receive any sales tax revenue or other tax revenue related to the scooters.  

Brighton OKs scooters

Farther northeast, Brighton city councilmembers decided in April that residents will get access to Bird scooters. A group of Brighton city officials and residents officially welcomed Bird scooters as legal transportation June 30 during a news conference at city hall.

The city has established nine no-rides zones in the city along five streets: Baseline Road, Bridge Street, Bromley Lane, Sable Boulevard and South 50th Avenue. The scooters will not operate on several sections of those streets.

Others without scooters

Commerce City does not have agreements for any electric scooter companies to operate within the city’s boundaries, according to city spokesperson Travis Huntington.

Nearby, Westminster also doesn't allow for shared electric scooters, according to city spokesperson Andy Le.

The Jefferson County suburb of Wheat Ridge does not have a scooter program, said Amanda Harrison, spokesperson for that city.

“We'd be interested in learning more if a vendor reached out, but that hasn't happened yet,” Harrison said.

Down south in Arapahoe County, Englewood did not respond for comment by press time about whether it has policies regarding shared electric scooters.

electric scooter, Denver, rules for scooter, ride share, Bird, Arvada

Comments

Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.