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Electric scooters coming to Chicago

It was bound to happen. After their fly-by-night deployment in dozens of cities across the country, dockless electric scooters are coming to Chicago. You’ll see them zipping around music festivals soon, though Lime, the scooter-sharing company, isn’t announcing which ones in advance. While the concept of scooter sharing is certainly novel, there are unanswered questions when it comes to safety.

How They Work

Dockless electric scooters were first rolled out a few years ago in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., but have seen explosive growth since then. Scooters simply sit untethered in the city, and if you want to ride one, you unlock it with an app on your phone. You pay $1 for the first 30 minutes and 15 cents per minute thereafter. Workers then pick up the scooters overnight, charge them and leave them at designated drop sites the next morning.

Safety Concerns

People in other cities have complained that scooter-sharing causes chaos, and that’s partly by design. Lime, the company introducing the Chicago fleet, doesn’t typically ask cities for permission to introduce their scooters. The resulting headlines boost demand and put pressure on officials scrambling to develop rules after the fact. Fortunately, Lime is taking a different approach in Chicago with this pilot program, working with city regulators to ensure that the rollout is smooth and that the rules are clear.

Even so, there are significant safety issues with scooter-sharing. Because it’s a new concept, people often aren’t clear on where they can ride and where they can’t, so they tend to go wherever they want. Sidewalks, roads, parks — all of these seem like good spots when you have a scooter under your feet, with speeds topping 20 miles-per-hour. Unfortunately, this has already led to pedestrian accidents in other parts of the country. In some cases, scooters have had fatal encounters with cars.

Hopefully, the Chicago program will be different. Hopefully the regulations will be clear and the public will have sufficient education to understand where they can ride. However, if other cities are any guide, pedestrians will have to remain vigilant. If you’re on foot, pay close attention to your surroundings. It could save you a trip to the emergency room.