The City of Boulder is planning to expand its e-scooter share program citywide by the end of August. The decision makes permanent a pilot program launched in August 2021 as part of a partnership with Lime, a San Francisco-based company.
The number of e-scooters is tripling from 300 to 900 within city limits, according to city officials. Starting as soon as this week, the city will begin painting and installing signs for parking zones, known as “Lime Groves.”
“We’re excited to bring this convenient transportation option to the whole city,” Natalie Stiffler, the City of Boulder’s transportation and mobility director said in a press release.
The expansion is part of the city’s strategy to reduce the number of people who drive cars inside the city. It comes after the pilot program, which ran from Aug. 17, 2021 – Aug. 31, 2022, mostly east of 28th Street, was found to reduce the number of miles people drove in the city, according to a city evaluation.
Using survey data from e-scooter users and an analysis of miles traveled during the pilot, the city found the scooters helped reduce traffic and air pollution, and increased mobility alternatives. In total, users rode nearly 118,000 miles on the e-scooters during the pilot year — equivalent to crisscrossing the country about 40 times — according to the city. Over the course of the year, residents reported four crashes resulting in hospitalization.
One notable effect, the city said, was that riders used them to get from the bus stop to their final destination — the so-called “last mile” that often discourages people from using public transit.
In January 2023, the city council approved expanding shared e-scooters citywide, with some restrictions, including prohibiting them on parts of Pearl Street.
For safety reasons, there will be slow zones, where speed is limited, as well as no-go zones, where e-scooters are not allowed to operate. In those areas, the e-scooter will automatically slow down or stop.
The no-go zones include the Pearl Street Mall, cemeteries and Open Space and Mountain Parks trails.
The slow zones include University Hill, Chautauqua and parts of downtown Boulder.
E-scooter parking will also be regulated. In some places, scooters will have to be put in designated Lime Groves.
Mandatory parking zones will include some areas of downtown Boulder, University Hill, Chautauqua and the CU campus, Aisha Ozaslan, a city spokesperson, told Boulder Reporting Lab. If users don’t park e-scooters properly, the Lime app will continue to charge them for e-scooter use. It costs $1 to unlock the scooter and 35 cents per minute to use it, according to the city.
The city only allows e-scooters on sidewalks or in the street if there are no other options. They should be ridden in bike lanes or multi-use paths when available, the city said.
The Lime e-scooter expansion program falls under the Shared Micromobility Program, created to help reach the city’s climate and transportation goals.
The city estimated that the 118,000 e-scooters miles traveled during the evaluation period contributed to a reduction of roughly 26,000 pounds of CO2, a greenhouse gas. This estimate is based on the assumption that 25% of all scooter journeys were substitutions for equally long car trips.
Those who want to ride a Lime e-scooter have to download the app, input payment information and scan a QR code to unlock their scooter.