It’s been well over a year since electric scooters first appeared in Denver, and on Wednesday, Denver’s Department of Public Works (DPW) announced the nearly 3,000 machines buzzing around the city are here to stay.

The Dockless Mobility Pilot Program, created last summer in response to mild chaos, was set to expire on July 31, after which the city was expected to make a decision on the future of scooters in the Mile High City. However, DPW spokesperson Heather Burke said on Thursday that the pilot is being extended into August, and a new “ongoing” permit program is anticipated to begin in early September and last indefinitely.

Burke explained the pilot program has been extended because the city doesn’t want to have a gap between the time when pilot ends and the permanent permitting system begins.

Electric scooters have had a controversial tenure in Denver, prompting city officials on several occasions to take action. In June 2018, when Bird and Lime dropped scooters on sidewalks with little warning, the city effectively banned them until a pilot program could be established six weeks later. Then, in January, Denver City Council revised the city ordinance to allow scooters in bike lanes and on roadways in most parts of the city (originally they were only allowed to operate on sidewalks).

Since then, despite hardly any enforcement of the new law, the city has been monitoring scooter activity and collecting feedback from residents, which is expected to inform the ultimate decision regarding longterm scooter use in Denver.

According to Burke, the city has seen about 1.95 million rides taken over the past year and about 2.78 million miles traveled. However, she noted, people who have responded to surveys indicate they are more often using scooters to replace walking trips than car trips.

Denver Parks and Recreation will continue to monitor scooter use on pathways, like the Cherry Creek Trail and the South Platte River Trail, as part of a 180-day temporary rule instituted this spring that allowed them to operate on the department’s property.

The extension into August applies to 2,840 scooters, as well as 500 dockless bikes. Details on the longterm permit program are still being finalized and will be released in the coming weeks. But it appears the scooters are here to stay.

Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.