Lime rides take off in Tacoma as another e-scooter company looks to enter the market

Lime scooters buzzing through Tacoma streets

UW Tacoma students say electric-propelled Lime scooters are both fun and practical.
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UW Tacoma students say electric-propelled Lime scooters are both fun and practical.

More than 5,000 rides in less than a week.

That’s the total Lime hit in the first days of its test of e-bike and e-scooter sharing in Tacoma.

The company and the city introduced the electrically powered bikes and scooters Sept. 21 for a two-month review. After a quick public introduction and ceremony, Tacomans were seen tooling around downtown streets and sidewalks, particularly on the scooters.

“We’re excited to be in Tacoma,” said Isaac Gross, Lime’s general manager for Washington. “Since our launch, we’re seeing that riders in the city are really enjoying Lime e-bikes and scooters.”

And, Lime soon might not be the city’s only scooter-sharing option.

Bird, another e-scooter-sharing company, has applied to Tacoma’s pilot program for a 60-day trial, which could start in the next week or two, according to the city’s Planning and Development Services department.

Tacoma is the latest Washington municipality to give sharing e-scooters and e-bikes a try. (No push-pedal versions for this trial.) Bellevue started its trial in late July and early August.

Given all that, what do people need to know to stay safe on the e-scooters in Tacoma?

Aaron Laird, an emergency room physician with CHI-Franciscan Health, offered some safety reminders:

Wear a helmet and closed-toed shoes.

Consider knee and elbow pads if you’re new to riding.

Start off slowly as the accelerator and brake controls might take some getting used to.

Skip the alcohol, marijuana, texting, phone calls and ear buds. All can be impairing and you need to be aware of your surrounding traffic situation.

“Ride like nobody else sees you,” Laird wrote in response to a query from The News Tribune. “Even if you have the right of way, be sure that the traffic is aware of your presence before proceeding in a busy intersection.”

The city and its bike share FAQ offer more information:

Do I need a helmet? For your personal safety and beyond, yes.

“It’s a City of Tacoma law to wear helmets. The City’s helmet requirement applies to both electric assist bicycles, and electric motorized foot scooters.”

Can people really ride the scooters on sidewalks and not in a park? Sticking strictly with city code as of now, yes to both questions.

“Electric motorized foot scooters may be operated on roadways, shoulders, sidewalks, and alleys. They may not be operated in bicycle lanes, pedestrian paths, park trails, or on school fields or playgrounds.”

The officials with the city’s parks might look the other way if you’re not endangering yourself or others.

“We’ve told rangers to watch and document,” Hunter George, chief communications and public affairs officer with Metro Parks Tacoma told The News Tribune.

“We want people to use our parks and get here any way they can — and maybe not in a car,” George said. “If this leads to more people enjoying parks, there’s great potential in that.”

What about the e-bikes? “Electric assist bikes are allowed in bike lanes and other areas where conventional bicycles are allowed, including sidewalks,” according to the city.

Who’s paying for the test? “A permit fee was calculated by Public Works based on type and quantity of vehicle to be deployed during the 60-day trial, “ Planning and Development Services responded. “The permit fee has been paid by Lime.”

What about the “clustering” of bikes or scooters left around the city? “Scooters are retrieved by Lime each night for charging, and batteries replaced on bikes. They are then distributed throughout the city, often times in clusters.”

If you’re not happy where you’re seeing the clusters or finding the units left in places you think they should not be (such as in water), call or text Lime at 888-546-3345, or email support@limebike.com.

How do I give the city feedback? You can send concerns and comments about the program to TacomaFIRST 311, which has a “BikeShare/LimeBike Complaint” request that residents can access through 311’s web portal or mobile app. You also can call TacomaFIRST 311 by dialing 311 from within the city or 253-591-5000 from outside.

What happens after the trial period? City staffers will work with citizen groups to determine whether to extend the pilot program. Issues such as helmet distribution and changes in city code regarding motorized bikes and scooters could be part of that conversation.

Are people getting hurt? A check with MultiCare and CHI Franciscan Health indicated no spike in injury numbers since Lime’s launch. The hospitals don’t keep track of the specific source of injuries; visits typically are coded just by injury or diagnosis.

Lime, for its part, is looking to expand.

“We look forward to bringing all Lime products to other cities in the Puget Sound to make last mile transportation more efficient, eco-friendly and enjoyable,” Gross said.

Mayor Victoria Woodards gave a nod to the service as Tuesday’s City Council meeting came to a close.

“This is an opportunity for us to learn and figure out what this looks like in Tacoma,” she said. “... I think it’s going to change the way we think about getting around.”

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell