While in St. Paul the other day, I noticed a few green scooters and bikes parked what seemed like randomly along city streets and boulevards. I heard rumors from friends and coworkers about these lighter, faster modes of public transportation, and began to wonder what these mysterious two-wheeled vehicles were all about – and what they might mean for the future of getting around in the capital city.
St. Paul signed a contract with Lime on Monday, August 13, to provide dockless bikes and e-scooters throughout the city. This followed an August 1 resolution the City Council approved to allow a pilot program for electric scooters to operate on city streets in the first place – something Lime’s predecessor, Bird, didn’t wait for.
Read our coverage on Bird here: Electric scooters have rolled into the Twin Cities
On August 14, dockless bikes and e-scooters became officially (and legally) available for public use. The driving idea behind the vehicles is to offer an environmentally-friendly mobility alternative to cars that also allows those maybe unable to purchase a bike of their own – or, if biking isn’t option for physical (etc) reasons, to give something efficient like a scooter as well.
Plus, they’re kind of fun.
Council President Amy Brendmoen outlined the benefits of the new transportation, saying, “Saint Paul residents, visitors and employees will now have two more great options for moving around our community. These new, shared, dockless bikes and scooters will make our city more connected, healthy and fun.”
Perhaps the biggest advantage of dockless bikes and e-scooters is user flexibility: Rather than being confined to starting and ending rides at bike racks or docking stations (like with the Nice Ride bike program already in place) riders can begin or end their ride anywhere in the city.
This also makes them more accessible to everyone, and all neighborhoods, in the city.
Both mobility options are operated through third-party vendors with smartphone apps. Users set up individual accounts, which then allows them to find, unlock, and rent a bike or e-scooter located throughout the city on public right-of-way (the boulevard between the public sidewalk and the street).
More information: Lime Dockless Bikes
St. Paul has partnered with Lime to provide dockless bike sharing services citywide. Lime will provide both traditional pedal bikes, and, eventually, electric-assist bikes which can help make traveling up some of Saint Paul’s many hills a bit easier. Traditional bike rental is $1 for every 30 minutes.
With the use of a smartphone app bikes are easy to find and unlock due to them all being GPS and 3G -enabled. When riders reach their ride destination, they use the app to end the ride and responsibly park the bike between the sidewalk and street curb, or at a bike rack.
St. Paul will be working with Lime to implement programs that reduce rider costs for low-income residents as well as make the program available for individuals without smartphones or credit cards.
Concerns about lost/left-behind bikes have been addressed as well: Lime has made a commitment to work with riders and the city to ensure that bikes are parked appropriately and legally throughout St. Paul. The goal is that bikes are parked without blocking sidewalks, transit stops, driveways, or creating other issues. So, if a bike is parked inappropriately all the bikes have contact information on them to contact Lime directly to have the bike relocated.
More information: Electric Scooter Sharing Pilot Program
On August 1, the City Council unanimously approved an e-scooter pilot program allowing residents and visitors to use e-scooters from a variety of companies. The pilot program will last until November 30, 2018, at which point the program will be evaluated to determine if it should continue long-term.
Currently, Lime has the only e-scooters available. Aforementioned e-scooter vendor Bird has backtracked as well to work with St. Paul and introduce their scooters legally. Like bike sharing, the scooters can be located and rented by downloading a smartphone app, providing an easy mobility option.
As a safety reminder, scooter riders should follow the same rules of the road that apply to bicycle users. Also, all riders are encouraged to wear helmets for safety. Scooters can be used on city streets, bike lanes, and bike paths, but are not allowed on sidewalks.
And, if parents relax a little, this should be great for kids as well. Read this article next: The ‘free-range parenting’ law shaking up parenting practices