CHICAGO (CBS) — City officials have chosen three companies to participate in Chicago’s second scooter pilot program, which will begin in the middle of next month.

“The selected companies demonstrated in their applications the ability to meet Chicago’s strict operational, safety and equity guidelines for the four-month scooter pilot, which is expected to launch on August 12,” the mayor’s office said in a statement Thursday morning.

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Lime, Bird, and Spin each will get to distribute 3,333 electric scooters across the city when the second pilot program begins on Aug. 12, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.

“It’s great to be back in Chicago,” Lime spokesman LeAaron Foley said. “Lime scooters will fill transportation gaps in many neighborhoods on the South and West sides – connecting residents to more opportunities while serving as a valuable part of the city’s transportation network. And as the city continues to battle COVID-19, scooters will also allow all residents to get around on an open-air vehicle while remaining socially distanced.”

Earlier this month, Lime let CBS 2 try out its new fleet, which is sturdier, wider, and equipped with a second braking system in the back.

All 10 companies that participated in the first pilot program last year were eligible to apply for the second pilot program, but only four did so. Wheels, the fourth company to apply, was not chosen.

Inevitably, the announcement of the second scooter pilot program will summon visions for some people of jumping out of the way of scooters buzzing down the street, or hopping over discarded devices, but the city says have no fear. Chicago will now have some of the toughest scooter rules in the country.

The first time around, cameras caught two-wheeled machines from various vendors thrown all over sidewalks, in the water, and somehow even in a tree. The city’s 2019 pilot evaluation revealed improper parking and abandoned e-scooters were the number one complaints to 311.

To avoid similar problems this time, the city is now requiring an in-app safety quiz and locks on every scooter. Users must lock their scooters to bike racks or sign posts, and will be charged until there is photo proof that rule has been followed.

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Last time, vendors were required to go around the city to pick up scooters at night, and redeploy them each morning, but now vendors will be allowed to leave scooters out at night, as long as at least half are deployed in designated equity areas on the South and West sides.

One of the biggest changes this time is that scooter rides can happen citywide – except along the lakefront, the 606 Trail, and the Central Business district downtown.

Map of the areas scooters are allowed in Chicago, and the equity priority areas on the South and West sides during the second electric scooter pilot program. (Source: Chicago Department of Transportation)

Another no-no and huge complaint last year – sidewalk riding. Lime said it created sidewalk detection technology, though that is not a Chicago requirement.

“It’ll be able to tell the difference between sidewalk and non-sidewalk surfaces, and we’ll send them messages after they complete their ride about where they’ve ridden on the sidewalk and how to prevent them in the future,” Foley said.

Vendor names and phone numbers in Braille also need to be on every device. Accessible scooters will be available on demand.

Another new rule is that 50 percent of scooters need to start on the South and West sides every morning.

The Chicago Department of Transportation said a final decision on vendors should be made in early August.

 

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CBS 2 Chicago Staff