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The year in scooters and bikes

Dockless mobility by the numbers

Two people on Lime scooters in front of a colorful mural Courtesy of Lime Austin and San Antonio

This story was first published on December 18 and has been updated to include information from Lime’s year-end report.

It’s no understatement: Dockless mobility was one of the biggest issues to dominate civic discussion, public and private, this year. To put it more bluntly, if a little reductively: Electric scooters—people love ‘em or hate ‘em, and passions on both sides ran high this year as the zippy little rentables (and, to a lesser extent, dockless electric bikes) took to Austin streets in rather dramatic fashion in 2018.

After a rough start that involved the initial exclusion of scooters in city forums about a pilot dockless bicycle program and the illegal deployment of scooters that followed, things got sorted quickly, and the city had some licensing and regulations in place by April (though Lime in particular continues to be cheeky about flouting the rules). By November, the city was experimenting with allowing bikes and scooters on some hike-and-bike trails, where motorized vehicles have previously been forbidden.

Austin was hardly the only U.S. city to experience the dockless wave, it is the first one in which the CDC is conducting a related safety study. The city included some nifty charts and stats when it announced the study—ones that will do just fine doubling as approximate year-end figures for those who want to dig in to the local dockless story so far.

What the city has to say

How many dockless and scooters and bikes are out there?

According to the city’s Mobility Committee, there are:

  • 7 licensed operators (Bird, Lime, Lyft, and Jump (Uber), Spin, and student-oriented VeoRide)
  • 11,001 authorized scooters
  • 850 authorized bikes
  • 65 square miles of service area

The report notes that licensed operators are allowed to serve any area within the city’s jurisdiction, but it the focus of operators’s initially allowed 500 units will stay primarily in the project’s designated downtown areas that are included in the total serve-area square mileage.

How many people are riding those things?

The city’s chart below contains some interesting numbers regarding number, distance, length, and time of rides for October 2018. Scooter trips far outnumber those taken on dockless shared bicycles.

How does dockless bike and scooter safety compare to that of other modes of transportation?

The first CDC study of that is taking place in Austin, so we don’t yet have an answer for that one. However, the city did release preliminary numbers for October 2018, which will be included in the CDC study. Shown on the chart below, they indicate far more reported motor vehicle injuries and fatalities that month.

What’s next?

The Mobility Committee announced two projects to address issues around dockless mobility:

Dockless Ordinance Refresh

Aligning the business model and fee structure to offset infrastructure and other needs

Investigating an Operating Authority Model to better manage total number of companies and maximum fleet sizes

Liability & Discovery – methodology and tools to hold users and companies accountable, where appropriate

Safe Riding Ordinance

Austin Transportation Department is analyzing data to develop a location-specific ordinance that would include safe and reasonable riding speeds and locations for all users

ATD will propose Dismount Zones, and other safety requirements for ALL riders, regardless of modal type

The outcomes of this work will be used to inform the development of a Safe Riding Ordinance

Clear indications of what is considered a riding violation making it easier to enforce

Courtesy of Lime

Lime rolls out some numbers

Lime, which has the second-highest number of dockless vehicles operating in Austin right now, issued a year-end report this week that focuses on other aspects of the dockless vehicle phenomenon—and its vehicles in particular, naturally.

  • Looking at the global picture, the company reports that its users took 26 million rides and traveled 20 million miles 2018. Other stats from the company break down its international demo.
  • 32 percent reported traveling to and from dining and entertainment destinations.
  • 40 percent reported traveling to and from work or school.
  • The average age of riders is 32. One-fourth of them are 37 years old or older.
  • Just over half have an annual income of less that $75,000/year, and 34 percent make less than $50,000 annually.
  • 30 percent used Lime vehicles to replace a car trip (this includes taxis, car-hailing, and ridesharing as well as personal vehicles)

How do Austin’s Lime riders compare? As it happens, it was one of the company’s “case study” cities. (The others were New York City/Staten Island/the Rockaways; the Los Angeles metro area; Seattle, Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; Kansas City, Missouri; Paris, France; Lisbon, Portugal; and Auckland, New Zealand). That means its Lime riders get a micro-breakdown of its stats.

According to the report:

  • 275,000 riders used Lime in Austin this year
  • 40% reported replacing a trip by automobile (personal car, carshare or taxi/rideshare) during their most recent trip
  • 38% reported commuting to/from work or school during their most recent trip
  • 42% reported traveling to/from dining or entertainment during their most recent trip
  • 12% reported traveling to/from shopping or errands during their most recent trip