Chicago Just Gave the “Go Signal” to Scooter Companies: What You Need to Know
Chicagoan E-Scooters: The New West Side Story
What Just Happened?
Before leaving office in May, Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel ensured that the planned deployment of an entire fleet of electric scooters would push through, even in his absence.
A total of 10 scooter companies will be allowed to deploy 250 vehicles each. With this motion, the scooter war officially enters the state of Illinois.
In the first weekend alone, these electric scooters racked up a whopping 11,000 rides. While these scooters provide a cheap and fast way to get to work without sweating through your shirt, some members of the community are concerned that it may become a nuisance.
Fortunately, city officials have put regulations in place to ensure that the newly introduced scooters don’t burden motorists and pedestrians. Here are some of those regulations:
The official speed limit for the scooters is set at 15 miles per hour. There is no available information as of yet with regard to the penalties for breaking the speed limit but one can only assume it will be a fine that increases with repeat offenses.
Another regulation that city officials put in place to ensure that these scooters don’t burden pedestrians is a rule stating that you can only operate them on streets. While some states merely discourage using them on sidewalks, Chicago has outright banned it.
To ride an electric scooter, the user must be 18 years of age or older. 16-year olds may also ride these scooters but only with the consent of a parent or guardian. This regulation seeks to prevent callow driving habits that could endanger riders and pedestrians alike.
A curfew has also been established for anyone who wants to use these new scooters. Any time between 5 AM and 10 PM is fair game, but those who plan on riding a scooter beyond the specified window should think twice.
One of the main concerns that city officials had when debating whether or not to implement electric scooters in Chicago was the potential clutter that could result.
To circumvent this issue, regulations have been put into place stating that these scooters must be parked in the same fashion as bicycles — i.e. upright and not around bus stops, street corners, or buildings. The regulations also require at least six feet of sidewalk clearance.
If you’re worried that these scooters will worsen downtown traffic, don’t be. As of now, the pilot is isolated to a 50-square-mile zone in the West Side of the city.
The area of effect is bordered by Halsted Street to the east and Harlem Avenue to the west. Irving Park Road and the Chicago River serve as the north and south borders respectively.
A total of 10 scooter companies are participating in the four-month pilot. Here’s a closer look at each of them:
Bird is a California-based scooter company that was founded in September of 2017. The founder of the company is none other than Travis VanderZanden who was formerly an executive at both Lyft and Uber.
Each round of funding went rather well for the company, raising $15 million in Series A, $100 million in Series B, and $300 million in Series C.
In the two years since its conception, Bird has expanded its reach to Austria, Belgium, France, Israel, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK.
Bolt, formerly Taxify, is a company based in Estonia that got its start as an Uber-esqueapp that would help its users find taxis and private drivers.
It has since expanded into the electric scooter industry and will be participating in the Chicago pilot. Bolt currently operates in 50 cities across Europe, Africa, West Asia, North America, and Australia. The company has 25 million users according to TechCrunch.
grüv is a newer company that’s putting its own unique spin on the electric scooter business model. The app offers a monthly subscription for $5 that will provide 30 minutes of daily riding time.
The Chicago pilot is grüv’s first time operating under live conditions but it hopes that the Netflix-esque business model will bring it to new heights.
According to the grüv website, the company plans to begin operating in Oakland, California as well.
Upon first glance, VeoRide may seem like just another electric scooter company looking to throw its hat in the ring. However, it’s unique in that it targets students and campuses specifically.
Furthermore, VeoRide is the only company on this list that’s actually based in Chicago, which will surely boost its local support from the Chicagoan population.
Another feature that VeoRide boasts is the fact that the app shows you where available scooters are as well as where you should park to avoid being a nuisance. It generally costs around $1 million for campuses to implement VeoRide scooters and bikes.
Wheels was founded by Joshua and Jonathan Viner, the same entrepreneurial brothers who founded the popular dog-walking app Wag.
The brothers recently left their operation roles at Wag to focus on Wheels, but not before raising $400 million for the former. They seek to stomp out the competition by offering music-playing capabilities on their vehicles as well as a secret weapon: seats.
The company has gotten media buzz due to their hiring of former Uber executive Marco McCottry and former Lyft Director of Product Ben Shaken. The Viner brothers are clearly keeping their friends close and their enemies even closer.
Spin is yet another electric scooter brand trying to make its mark. The company is owned by Ford — yes, that Ford — and based in San Francisco. Ford acquired Spin for $100 million in November of 2018.
It got media attention recently upon partnering with Swiftmile to set up solar-powered docking stations in Michigan and Washington, DC. The docking stations are only compatible with Spin scooters, increasing the appeal for those who want to go green.
Thus, one can imagine that Spin and Swiftmile have similar plans for Chicago provided that the pilot goes well.
Perhaps one of the most elusive and mysterious companies on the lot (pun intended) is Sherpa. Beyond a 14-year old article on Sherpa’s thousand-dollar electric bike, the company has no visible online presence.
JUMP, formerly Social Bicycles, is a company that got its start in the electric bicycle industry as opposed to scooters. It was acquired by Uber for $200 million on April 9, 2018.
Its line of electric scooters first rolled out in October of 2018 using Santa Monica as ground zero and has since been working on extending its reach.
And, of course, where Uber goes, Lyft soon follows. Though it’s worth noting that Lyft actually beat Uber/JUMP to the punch on this one seeing as they rolled out their electric scooters a month earlier in September of 2018 using Denver as their launching pad.
The company faced some controversy recently after a glitch allowed users to go upwards of 20 miles per hour while most cities have speed limits set at 15. Skip (who will not be participating in the Chicago demo) and Bird were also implicated in the speed glitch.
Lime was the first scooter company to set foot, or rather, wheel, on Chicago streets during its test drive last year.
The company has recently been under public criticism due to the death of 26-year old Brady Gaulke who had twice the legal alcohol limit in his system at the time of the crash.
Due to the intoxication of Gaulke, the company was not held liable — though the incident still led to the end of Nashville’s scooter pilot by Mayor Briley.
One can only hope that no such incidents occur in Chicago, but if a crash does occur, who’s liable?
Who’s liable in an e-scooter crash?
In the overwhelming majority of cases, the rider of the scooter is liable for any injuries they sustain during the ride. The same holds true for any property damage or injuries that they cause during the ride.
This may seem unfair, but the same system has been in place for car rental companies, so why should things be any different with scooters?
Trying to pin blame on scooter companies would be rather difficult in any case due to the fact that most incidents are the result of user error, disregard for city regulations, or violation of traffic laws.
Some incidents are even the result of users riding an electric scooter while under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.
The only instance in which the scooter companies would be held liable for injuries or property damage is if they make defective or improperly maintained scooters available to the public.
Unlike with rideshare accidents, companies don’t provide any liability coverage for crashes involving their e-scooters.
All that being said, the scooter companies may still offer limited compensation for injuries and other damages in the interest of staying in good standing with the city council and ensuring that they can operate within Chicago beyond the four-month pilot.
E-Scooter Crash Attorneys in Chicago
Have you been involved in an escooter accident? If you’ve been in a crash involving an electric scooter, you’ll need a lawyer who specializes in these types of incidents to walk you through the process and help you seek any possible compensation.
Give us a call today at (708) 400-0000 for a free on-the-phone-consultation with one of our Chicago scooter accident lawyers with no strings attached!
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