Shareable electric scooters are the latest trend in hip urban transportation. But will they zip down Seattle streets anytime soon?

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is making it a possibility, announcing she’ll direct the city to consider allowing scooters in the city. She’s taking a fairly cautious stance, demanding the city be indemnified from lawsuits.

Meanwhile, some City Council members and other scooter advocates are eager to press ahead, as other cities including Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas, are leaping ahead. Some cities have seen the use of scooters rise as some bike-share programs fall. Big players such as Uber, Lyft and others are getting into the game.

On Episode 108 of The Overcast, The Seattle Times’ politics podcast, transportation reporter Heidi Groover expertly breaks down her reporting on the pros and cons of scooters, explaining why Seattle has been comparatively slow to embrace them.

“I think most people point to Mayor Jenny Durkan and her skepticism. She has some concerns around safety and legal issues and she has vocalized those quite a bit over the last year as they have sort of exploded in popularity around the country,” Groover says.

In particular, Durkan has pushed for full legal indemnity for Seattle from lawsuits over scooter injuries, seeking to shield the city even in cases when potholes or sidewalk cracks are a factor.


Groover explains what research shows about scooter-related injuries, which tend to include a sizable instance of head trauma. It’s a mixed bag with limited data so far.

The podcast conversation also turns to broader discussion of the gig economy, including new data suggesting that Lyft and Uber drivers have been banking a decreasing share of fare income from the businesses. Groover explains how official Uber filings show the company expects its drivers will be less satisfied with their income.

Those ride-share workers are classified as independent contractors, not employees. Does that represent freedom, or does it leave people without sustainable livelihoods? Listen to the end of the podcast for the One True Answer (or, at least, a dang good rundown of the relevant considerations).

This episode was recorded at the Seattle studios of public radio 88.5 FM KNKX as part of an ongoing partnership.

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