On an average day in Denver, people will tap their phones and unlock a sharing electric scooter nearly 5,000 times.
That’s according to the city’s first major report on its “dockless” program, which allows companies like Lyft and Uber to deploy rental sahring electric scooters and bikes on the city’s sidewalks and streets.
In all, the fleet of about 1,300 scooters has traveled nearly 1 million miles since Aug. 1, according to data the companies have provided to the city.
The peak time to scoot is Sunday afternoon, but Monday afternoon is nearly as popular. On weekdays, people ride most often during commuting hours and lunchtime.
Union Station is the center of scooting, but intense use extends down to Civic Center. Riders are also traveling down to West Colfax and up into Five Points.
Dockless bikes are much less popular than scooters, even accounting for the smaller number of bikes. But bike riders tended to travel farther.
The scooters are more popular when it’s warm. The average scooter saw three times more rides from August to November compared to the winter months.
Denver police have reported 15 dockless-related crashes during the program.
The fleets could be getting bigger, too. Effective Wednesday, each company’s cap will rise from 350 to about 440, an increase of 25 percent. That could happen again in April and July, depending on the strength of rider demand.
However, half of the new scooters would have to be deployed to “opportunity areas” outside the downtown core. So far, the companies have concentrated on urban neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Five Points — both are considered opportunity areas — although a city map also showed three scooters deployed to Montbello.
Two of the companies — Razor and Spin — were only using about a third of their allowable scooters as of January, though they started later than their rivals.
“Denver has taken to scooters well,” wrote Ryan Larson, Spin’s general manager for Denver, in a statement to The Denver Post. “The overall amount of scooters on the streets is less than some cities where ridership has exploded (Austin, TX comes to mind) but for the fleet sizes, Denverites seem to find scooters as a useful form of transportation. With the Denver winter, we haven’t been able to see full ridership blossom, but we’re looking forward to spring to watch that happen.”
The dockless rules are due for review in another six months, and the city hasn’t declared its experiment a success yet. While the scooters are getting a lot of use, it’s unclear if they’re taking vehicles off the road “or simply replacing walking trips, the new report says.
The city also conducted an unscientific online poll of both riders and nonriders. Of about 2,000 people, more than 50 percent said they liked or loved the scooters, and another 26 percent said they would like them with some changes. About a third said they had been “hit or almost hit” by a scooter while walking. The city has tried to make riding safer with a new law that moves scooters from the sidewalks to the bike lanes after a Denver Post story about conflicts over where they should be used.
About 43 percent of riders said their most recent scooter ride saved them from walking. About 32 percent said they would otherwise have paid for an automobile ride or driven themselves. Only about 7 percent said that the scooter ride replaced a transit ride.
The most popular demand was simple: “More sharing electric scooters available when you need them.”
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