Seattle’s first free-floating rental scooters will be available this week after the bike and scooter company Lime said it deployed 500 scooters here Wednesday.
The electric foot scooters will be available in downtown, South Lake Union, Sodo, the Central District, Capitol Hill, Ballard, Fremont and the University District, Lime said.
Seattle has been late to adopt scooters compared to some other cities, like Portland, as some here have worried about safety, obstacles on sidewalks for people with disabilities, potential lawsuits and other issues.
City law requires scooter riders to wear helmets, though enforcement is likely to be spotty. Scooter riders can legally use bike lanes and roads but not most sidewalks. (Bicycles are allowed on sidewalks.)
Lime will charge $1 to unlock scooters using an app and 36 cents a minute to ride. A low-income program requiring preapproval will include five free half-hour rides per day for both bikes and scooters, the company said.
The electric scooters require near-daily charging, which is done by Lime workers and by people who sign up as independent contractors to charge the devices.
While riders can travel anywhere in the city on scooters, Lime’s initial rollout will not include many neighborhoods on a city list of places scooter companies must send 10% of their devices to meet equity requirements. Scooters along 23rd Avenue South near East Yesler Way will meet that requirement, a Lime representative said.
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) list also includes neighborhoods in North Seattle like Bitter Lake and Pinehurst and in southern Seattle like Georgetown and Rainier Beach. Lime could send scooters to those neighborhoods later if the city allows more scooters, the company said.
Some City Council members have questioned whether SDOT’s 10% requirement — or 50 of each company’s initial 500 scooters — is enough.
The scooter launch comes as unhealthy wildfire smoke blanketing the region has kept many people inside.
“We are strongly urging the scooter share companies to promote healthy choices considering the current air quality,” said SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson in an email. “The city is still advising people to limit any travel to essential trips due to the smoke, but we recognize that people can make responsible choices for themselves based on their needs and circumstances.”
Two other scooter companies may soon operate in Seattle: Link, which rents electric foot scooters, and Wheels, which rents seated scooters. Neither company has submitted their paperwork to the city yet, according to SDOT.
Link expects to start renting in “mid-fall,” a spokesperson said. A Wheels spokesperson said that company plans to launch in about a month.