Good news came out of Denver City Council last night after they unanimously passed new safety and operational rules for electric scooters to allow their use in bike lanes and on city streets that have speed limits under 30 mph.
I’m a big fan of how electric scooters can plug into our current transportation system – they can deliver a critical first mile-last mile connection for those who use transit, they can reduce air pollution, and they add one more way that residents and visitors can travel in our city without having to use a car.
Electric scooters stormed onto our sidewalks and streets in Denver in 2018 and took all of us by surprise at how quickly people embraced them and used them. They clearly fill a transportation niche.
However, state and local laws were not in place to navigate the safety challenges that come with this new way to ride. Electric scooters were blocked from the place that made the most sense for people to use them – bike lanes. They were also not allowed on roads or sidewalks.
Denver City Council’s action last night changed that. In places with bike lanes, electric scooters need to move off the sidewalks and into what could more aptly be described as multi-use lanes moving forward. The new rules allow electric scooters on roads with speed limits below 30 mph if there are no bike lanes. Sidewalks use is out unless you are travelling along a road with a higher speed limit, and only then if you scoot at 6 mph or less.
So are we done? No. Denver’s woefully incomplete bike network means there will still be too many places where electric scooters and pedestrians will be competing for limited sidewalk space so this action adds additional urgency to build out our system of bike/multi-use lanes. In addition, safety studies looking at pedestrians show that being hit by a car going 31 mph versus 23 mph doubles the chance of serious injury – so with more electric scooters on roads, Denver should move more roads’ speed limits to 25 mph to prioritize safely moving people.