For DC and other cities concerned about rising traffic, a new study in Portland, Oregon suggests scooters could be a solution. Residents and tourists are using e-scooters in place of car trips, and scooters are drawing people who've never ridden a bike or never traveled in a bike lane.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation sent a questionnaire to 75,000 scooter users and received 4,500 responses. Among the findings, reported by BikePortland:
E-scooters are replacing automobile trips. Thinking of their last e-scooter trip, 34 percent of Portlanders said they would have driven a personal car (19 percent) or hailed a taxi, Uber or Lyft (15 percent).
The auto trip replacement numbers are even higher among tourists and visitors (48 percent). Thinking of their last e-scooter trip, 34 percent of visitors would have taken a taxi, Uber or Lyft, and 14 percent would have driven a personal vehicle had e-scooters not been available.
E-scooters are bringing new Portlanders to the bike lane. Forty-five percent of survey respondents reported “never” biking and 78 percent had never used BIKETOWN prior to using e-scooters.
Portlanders are reducing or considering reducing their auto ownership due to e-scooters. Six percent of users report getting rid of a car because of e-scooters and another 16 percent have considered it.
The Portland study also said respondents preferred to ride in a bike lane, followed by the street and finally sidewalk as the last choice. In cities including DC which have e-scooters, whether to ride on the sidewalk or in the street has been a subject of debate. Bike advocates point out that the clear answer is to have a comprehensive network of bike lanes, where scooters have so far coexisted well, so that people don't have to ride in a street with fast-moving cars or on a sidewalk except for very short distances.
DC continues to limit dockless bike and scooter companies to 400 vehicles per company, a number spokespeople for the companies have said is much too low and doesn't meet the demand. In September, Arlington decided to institute a flexible cap, where each company could deploy 350 to start, but increase by 50 per month as long as their bikes or scooters were drawing three or more rides per day on average.
Montgomery County did not cap numbers but limited its pilot to three non-electric dockless bike companies in Silver Spring; it's now considering a larger zone and allowing e-bikes and scooters.
This particular study looked at scooters, but an earlier Uber analysis found similar effects. Uber users who started riding JUMP (which Uber owns) decreased their Uber usage by 10% and 15% during work days, but Uber actually sold them 15% more trips because their new JUMP trips made up for it and then some.
For DC residents, it's not too late to sign the letter calling for 20,000 shared bikes and scooters (Capital Bikeshare and dockless) which we created with WABA, CSG, the Sierra Club, and other organizations.