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Denver is ready to allow electric scooters back — with some new rules

Author: Adam McCoy - July 24, 2018 - Updated: August 9, 2018

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Scooters could be back on Denver streets as soon as the end of July — with some new operating guidelines.

Denver had to move fast on launching a new permit pilot program after companies like Lime in May dropped dockless scooters on city streets with little warning, prompting concerns among public works officials.

“We had some companies drop scooters under the cover of night on Denver in an unauthorized way and we were launched into having to make some decisions,” said Cindy Patton, director of parking and mobility services for Denver’s Department of Public Works, during a Denver City Council committee meeting Tuesday.

Denver now plans to allow some companies back in the city starting July 30 under a new dockless mobility permit pilot program.

Administered through the city’s existing Transit Amenity Program, the program permits electric scooters and e-bikes to set up near public transit like bus stops or light rail stations in painted “agnostic” zones, meaning any company’s bicycle or scooter can be parked there.

The program will create two permit categories — “bicycles/e-bikes and scooters/other” but also allow for “pilots to test innovative strategies.”

Permits are valid for one year and initially limit bicycle fleets to 400 vehicles, with an option to increase to 500 in the city’s designated opportunity areas, and scooter fleets to 250, with an option to increase to 350. Denver will only grant permits to five e-bike companies and five scooter companies.

Companies are expected to “reset” vehicles back to designated transit stops continuously and “rebalance” their fleets every evening so all vehicles start at their designated transit stop at the beginning of the day.

“Permittees are encouraged to incentivize users to return vehicles to identified locations as well as provide clear parking information in app,” the city notes.

Under state law regulating “toy vehicles,” it is unlawful to drive electric scooters on the road or in bike lanes, and therefore they must be ridden on sidewalks. 

That’s a sticking point which raised concern among some Denver City Council members who believe scooter users feel more comfortable in bike lanes. Scooter and e-bikes are also prohibited on city parks trails and in the 16th Street Mall.

“Folks, it seems, are naturally more comfortable in a bike lane,” said Nicholas Williams, Denver Public Works deputy chief of staff. “We agree. It’s just matter of how bound are we by current state law.”

According to a July 16 Denverite report, eight scooter companies — Lime, Bird, Lyft, Spin, Razor, Skoot, Jump and Dropbike — and five bicycle companies — Lyft, Zagster, Jump, Ofo and Dropbike — have applied for a permit through the new program.

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy covers Denver-area politics for Colorado Politics.