Rental scooters reduced car use in Minneapolis, report finds

Last year's scooter pilot project is recommended for expansion in 2019.
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Almost 75,000 people in Minneapolis rented a scooter during last summer's pilot project, with many saying they'd reduced their car use as a result.

Electric scooter sharing services Lime and Bird arrived abruptly in the city last July, and judging by a report discussed by Minneapolis City Council on Tuesday night, both were a huge success.

Using data from both companies, the city found that 225,543 scooter rides were taken between July and November and there were 74,877 unique users, who averaged 1.34 miles per ride.

But rather than them being used for a fun jaunt around the city's streets and bike trails, 95 percent of riders reported using them to reach a "real destination," such as home, work, school, restaurants or transit stops.

The report therefore concluded that the scooter project is helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars, with 42 percent of almost 1,000 users surveyed saying they had reduced use of their personal vehicles or taxis as a result of their scooter use.

Concerns over the potential for scooter-related accidents were not borne out by the data either, with only 4 crashes involving the scooters reported last year, along with 9 "near-misses."

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Scooters to more than triple in number

The city is now looking to expand access to scooters in 2019-20.

By the end of October, a maximum of 600 electric scooters were available to rent in Minneapolis and on the U of M campus.

This year, the maximum will be capped at 2,000, after it was approved by the Minneapolis City Council's transportation and public works committee on Tuesday.

Bird and Lime are the current main players in the market, but the city is offering an opportunity for at least two more scooter-sharing companies to enter the market.

There will be improvements made, however, to ensure the scooters can be accessed more equitably.

Scooter use Minneapolis

The map above shows that the majority of trips were taken in the downtown and U of M campus areas.

Of those who responded to city's survey, 88 percent of scooter users identified as white and 70 percent had incomes over $50,000, while 19 percent have incomes less than $25,000.

This year, there will be efforts made to make more scooters accessible to people with lower incomes, with the city requesting at least 600 of the vehicles (30 percent) be placed in areas of concentrated poverty.

Only 40 percent – 800 in total – will be placed in downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Bird was charging scooter users $1 to unlock a scooter using its app, and then 15 cents for every minute of ride time.

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