Sure, electric scooters technically first arrived in Denver in May 2018, when they were dropped off downtown without warning (and subsequently confiscated by officials within weeks). But the real anniversary of the Mile High City’s scooter-mania can be marked by the year-long Dockless Mobility Pilot Permit Program, which was unveiled in late July 2018 and has allowed for nearly 3,000 scooters from five companies to operate in the city. While the pilot was supposed to expire on August 1, 2019, it was recently extended until an ongoing permit program launches in September. This means that the electrified two-wheelers will be cruising our streets (and sidewalks and trails, despite regulations) for the foreseeable future.
Whether you love them or hate them—and if you live or work downtown, we’re guessing you have a strong opinion about them—the scooters have altered Denver’s transportation infrastructure since arriving last year. Here, we take a look back at the biggest e-scooter developments over the past 12 months.
The More the (Maybe Not) Merrier: September to October 2018
After seeing the popularity Bird and Lime scooters in Denver, other major operators unveiled their own fleets. First was Lyft; the ride sharing giant unveiled its first scooters on September 6 and grew its number to 350 over several months. Razor, the company best known for kick scooters, then deployed 350 scooters in early October. Spin, the last of the bunch, launched its own flock of scooters on October 19 and was acquired by Ford Motor Co. a few weeks later. Over the course of the year, the total number of licensed scooters in Denver swelled from 1,750 at the beginning of the program to 2,840 early this year. (The actual number of scooters operating in the city is unknown, as some of the companies licensed to operate here have not met their cap.)
Mild Chaos Ensues: Fall 2018
Some people loved scooters; some people hated them. Some people rode them on sidewalks; some people rode them in the street. Some riders were slapped by pedestrians; others tossed the machines in the Platte River. After several months, it was clear Denver’s city government needed to revisit scooter regulations; namely the outdated ordinance that classified the machines as “toy vehicles” and mandated they be ridden on sidewalks. Older and disabled residents in particular, like our downtown neighbor Billy LoDo, targeted city government as well as the scooter companies and demanded they remove the machines from the streets (or at least, to stop dropping them off in front of the Volunteers of America building, where he lives).
Sidewalks No More: January 2019
Denver’s Department of Public Works had been planning to address scooters operating on sidewalks, but the issue was ultimately taken up by Councilman Paul Kashmann and former City Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman, who co-sponsored an ordinance that revised city rules. The updated ordinance classified the machines as “electric mobility scooters,” allowing them to operate in bike lanes or roadways where the speed limit is 30 mph or less. If there is no bike lane and the speed limit is higher than 30 mph, the scooters may be ridden on a sidewalk at a speed no greater than 6 mph.
One Million Miles: February 2019
After six months of the pilot program, DPW released a mid-way report. By February, the city was seeing about 5,000 scooter rides per day and riders had logged nearly one million miles. Union Station, according to the report, was the most popular spot for scooting, with high numbers also in Five Points and along West Colfax. It was at this time that the cap on fleet sizes expanded from 350 per company to 440.
Lack Of Enforcement: May 2019
Five months after the city ordinance was revised and scooters continued buzzing along sidewalks, our research found that the Denver Police Department had written zero tickets to people who weren’t following the updated regulation. Rather than writing tickets and issuing fines, DPD said it was focused on “contacting riders and discussing safe, legal operation,” a spokesperson told 5280.
Coors Field Outlaws Scooters: June 2019
In response to a scooter collision outside the ballpark on June 28—in which one woman was knocked unconscious—Coors Field officials began asking scooter riders (as well as bicyclists and skateboarders) to dismount while crossing through sections of closed streets on game days, the Denver Post reported.
Scooters Are Here To Stay: July 2019
With only two weeks remaining before the Dockless Mobility Pilot Program was set to expire, DPW announced the scooters are sticking around for good. The original pilot program was extended into August, after which it will be replaced by a permanent permit system—details of which are yet to be released.