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Scooter-share companies vie for a place in Seattle

Bird and Lime have both launched public petitions

Bird scooters.
Courtesy of Bird

Free-floating, dockless bike shares have been in Seattle for well over a year now, but while Seattle was one of the first cities to implement rules governing free-floating bike shares, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has so far opted to keep its distance from the bikes’ cousins, the free-floating electric scooter.

Shunning the scooter was one factor in Spin packing up its orange bikes and leaving town. Lime, meanwhile, is the only bike-share provider left from the original pilot to stick around—and while the company has been largely cordial with the city, it’s been itching to launch scooters of its own. Bird, a company that deals exclusively in scooters, has also been edging in on the city waiting for the green light.

Both companies—independently from one another, a Bird spokesperson said—have launched public petitions to try to build support around allowing scooters on Seattle streets. Lime’s petition has just under 3,500 signatures, according to the company. Bird has not disclosed participation in its petition.

“People are excited about them in Seattle,” Lime general manager Isaac Gross told Curbed Seattle earlier this month. “Especially when we’re about to go through Viadoom.”

“Viadoom” refers to a three-week period when the downtown stretch of busy highway State Route 99 completely closes while crews switch road connections from the existing viaduct to a new tunnel. The closure starts on January 11.

While Lime plans to cap scooter speeds at 15 miles per hour like the e-bikes currently deployed in the city, Gross said that a scooter can go “three times as fast as a car during rush hour in Seattle—maybe 15 times.”

Lime has also been hosting pop-ups around the city, giving people a chance to try the scooters. A spokesperson said that 125 people showed up to try them out at Westlake Park last week. Meanwhile, Bird has recruited a collection of scooter “ambassadors” to test-ride the vehicles and build hype.

SDOT has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the future of scooters in Seattle, but there’s a hint it’s eventually, someday possible: A city document filed in accordance with Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) nods at “other micro-mobility vehicles” besides bikes.

In the past, SDOT has told us that scooters are intriguing and not impossible, but they’d require their own permitting system.

Meanwhile to the south, Tacoma has started to dabble in scooter-share, starting with Lime scooters and folding in Bird scooters last week as part of a two-month pilot.