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Mayor Durkan announces pilot program for e-scooters in Seattle

Mayor Jenny Durkan detailed the city’s extensive plan Wednesday to at long last bring electric scootershares to Seattle. On Thursday, Lime demonstrated the scooters outside City Hall plaza.

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Durkan laid out a roadmap in a lengthy guest article on Geekwire, introduced with a simple goal: “Let’s try scooters, but let’s do it right.”

“Let’s do it right by promoting safety, requiring fairness for riders and indemnification for the City, focusing on equity, and by building on – not losing – the best of bike share,” she wrote.

The hope is to draft a scootershare permit pilot over “the next few months,” working with transit, bike oversight boards, disability rights groups, and local businesses.

Mayor Durkan described a handful of priorities and qualifications the city has for introducing the popular offering that’s taken off in Tacoma, Spokane, and Portland.

“We will focus on four non-negotiable principles: safety, fairness to riders, protection of taxpayers through full indemnification, and equity,” said Durkan. “While some companies may see these requirements as too restrictive, they are too important not to fight for.”

First, she noted that scootershare should “be a complement” to bikeshare, rather than a replacement. Second, she cited safety concerns, marked by an increase in injuries from e-scooters that health officials in the United States have dubbed a “public health crisis.”

“Here’s what we know,” Durkan said. “As with any product, injuries can happen, but head injuries are some of the most common scooter injuries. Studies have shown that only between one and four percent of riders are wearing helmets of those injured, and scooter companies are not providing a helmet for every ride.”

Third, she noted the issues with legal liability that often walk hand-in-hand with scootershares. Bike and scootershare providers have been known to require riders to waive their rights to sue companies, leaving cities open to lawsuits. Durkan points to San Diego, where four separate lawsuits claim that the city is liable for scooter-related injuries.

Finally, she voiced a goal to ensure that options are provided for “cost-burdened communities” and low-income riders.

In the past, Seattle has balked at launching scootershare services, having adopted a “wait and see” approach. That hesitance was rooted in the safety concerns Durkan cited in her Geekwire guest post.

Previously, the Seattle Department of Transportation had told scootershare companies that they wouldn’t be welcome until a permanent program was in place.

Now, that program will at least start to get on its feet, with the city beginning its push for a “thoughtful, well-planned pilot.”

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