Electric scooters

Bird and Lime scooters are seeing increases in use over the past couple of months. | Photo by Jeremy Chisenhall

Louisville’s dockless vehicle market looks likely to expand, as new companies have been granted permission to drop their “fleets” of electric scooters and bikes downtown. Recent city data shows a steady increase in riders in the last couple of months.

From Aug. 8, 2018, to May 30, there have been 193,937 total trips taken on Bird and Lime scooters in the Louisville area, according to data from the city. That averages out to about 655 rides per day. That’s a major jump up from ride statistics when the scooters were first dropped.

“A big factor is the improving weather conditions,” said James Graham, mobility coordinator for Louisville Metro Public Works. “May also had several Derby and festival events, so that spiked user-ship.”

The five companies that were approved to operate in Louisville are Lyft, HOPR, Spin, Jump and Bolt, but the probationary licenses for Jump and Lyft have either been suspended or expired due to inactivity, Graham said. Lyft contacted the city and announced that they’d decided they wouldn’t be bringing dockless vehicles to Louisville at any time in 2019.

Bird, Lime, HOPR, Spin and Bolt all have licenses that are technically still active, though Graham said that Spin hasn’t made contact with the city in months.

None of the companies have dropped off any bikes or electric scooters yet, the city said. Bolt is the only company that has scheduled to bring scooters to Louisville, as they plan to do so within the next week or so, Graham said.

According to Louisville Metro’s dockless vehicle policy, there was previously a maximum of four dockless vehicle companies allowed downtown. The inactivity of some of the licensed companies led the city to amend the policy and increase the maximum to eight so that other companies could utilize the licenses, said Harold Adams, spokesman for Louisville Public Works.

He said the city will judge how many scooters should be on the streets.

“We are continually monitoring, just to see what happens out there,” he said. “If there are bad effects related to safety, we’ll act accordingly.”

The policy requires that the companies meet a quota of two rides per vehicle per day. If they don’t meet that quota, they will have to reduce their number of vehicles.

There has been a steady increase in scooter riders since the early months of 2019. Cold weather dropped use to as low as just 152 rides on March 2, but the weakest day in May featured 799 rides (May 12).

According to the city data, May 24 featured the heaviest use of scooters in Louisville, as about 3,000 rides were logged. There were 49,141 total rides in May, averaging out to about 1,638 rides per day.

Scooter use was nowhere near what it is now in the first few months. Oct. 5 featured 907 rides logged, the most over the first three months, the data shows.

Nov. 16 and Nov. 23 were the peak days for 2018, as around 1,100 rides were registered each day. About 452 rides were registered each day from Aug. 8 to the end of 2018.

The vast majority of the trips have been short in both time and distance, according to the city: 160,000 rides have gone no more than 2.37 miles, and about 23,200 rides have lasted less than 25 minutes.

Most rides occur near lunchtime between noon and 2 p.m., as about 27,000 rides have been taken in those hours, more than any other two hours.

Riders also tend to hop on scooters on weekends. Saturday is the most popular day of the week for rides, the data shows, as riders have taken about 29,000 on that day. Users have taken about 28,000 rides on Fridays.

Louisville’s expansion in the scooter market comes at the same time that Nashville is looking to temporarily ban scooters. Mayor David Briley is looking to ban scooter companies from the city after a rider was killed in a scooter-related accident, and among issues with riders not following rules. A report from The Tennessean said the rider had more than twice the legal amount of alcohol in his system at the time of the crash.

Briley said he was open to allowing up to two scooter companies to come back if they can meet new safety and responsibility standards that Nashville will set, according to The Tennessean.

Louisville officials say they aren’t considering a similar move. “I think you will find that every jurisdiction is concerned about safety, but we’re not considering any kind of ban at this point,” Adams said.

Mitchell Burmeister, the public information officer for Louisville Metro Emergency Services, told Insider that EMS did not have specific information on scooter-related accidents.

Scooter riders have told Insider that they certainly see the concerns with the scooters, but that they enjoy the efficiency they provide in getting around.

“I know they help with environment stuff, like you don’t drive as much, so I know that’s a benefit,” said Corbin Huggins, an Orlando native visiting Louisville for SkillsUSA. “It’s nice — I enjoy them a lot, just getting around. I know you kind of look dorky when you’re driving around on them, but I like being able to get around.”

Nick Lasley, another Orlando native staying in Louisville, sees the potential dangers with them.

“They go like 15 miles per hour on the sidewalk, I’m sure that can be dangerous,” Lasley said. “But I haven’t hit anyone yet.”

City policy actually does not permit riders to ride on the sidewalks unless they are entering or exiting a parking area. Scooters are supposed to be ridden on the streets at all other times.

Lasley, Huggins and Colby Huggins were staying downtown and using the scooters to get to and from their hotel.

“In Venice Beach, they just litter them all over,” Colby Huggins said. “It seems like it’s a little more reserved here.”

They all felt that adding more scooters could lead to the same problems of overcrowding and clutter that other cities have had.

As electric scooters become more popular around the country, the state government has begun to more heavily regulate the operation of them in Kentucky. House Bill 258, which went into effect on June 27, regulated the operation of electric scooters to be more like bicycles.

This story has been updated to include information on House Bill 258, as well as additional information in city policy for the scooters.