It’s hard to miss electric scooters zipping on the streets and abandoned on the sidewalks around Salt Lake City. Their popularity is part of the problem that has sparked a new safety campaign from the city and the two scooter companies, Bird and Lime, which were reintroduced to Salt Lake in July after city officials hit the brakes due to a bumpy start.
On Wednesday morning, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski kneeled over a stencil template on the sidewalk, spray paint can in hand, ready to fill in the words, “this is the place for walking.” Behind her, about 20 people wait in line for free helmets from the electric scooter company Bird.
One of the people in line, Alex Keith, noticed the line outside the Bird tent on her walk to work this morning. She said she’s ridden the scooters twice in the last month and prefers to stick to the sidewalk. She feels that drivers get frustrated when they have to share the road with scooters. But riding on the sidewalk can have its own consequences.
“One [person] yelled at me,” said the 26-year-old, laughing a little. “‘You know you’re supposed to ride those on the street, right?’”
Riders should know where they can and can’t use the scooters - the Bird app requires users to agree to the rules for riding in the city, which includes using bike lanes, and wearing a helmet.
The sidewalk messages and helmets are part of a safety campaign to further encourage scooter users to comply with those rules.
As part of the larger campaign, Bird and Lime are also donating one dollar per scooter per day to fund the new bike lanes, designated parking areas, and painted sidewalk messages. The companies are handing out more free helmets for users near downtown this weekend.
According to data from cities where Bird and Lime have implemented similar campaigns, the number of complaints and accidents has gone down. But until new bike lanes are created here in Salt Lake, it’s up to riders to stick to the rules of the sidewalk while they scoot.