Scooter Trips Surpass Docked Bike Share for the First Time

Photo:  Elvert Barnes
Photo: Elvert Barnes

Scooter ridership in America has outpaced traditional docked bike share for the first time, a new report shows.

In 2018, riders took 38.5 million trips on shared e-scooters across American cities, almost doubling ridership over a year and topping the number of trips made on city-sponsored bike share for the first time, according to a new analysis by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. The report comes as e-scooter use and deployment is surging and dockless shared bikes are slowly disappearing, as private shared mobility companies disinvested and shifted money to e-scooters.

Last year, e-scooter trips surpassed bike share for the first time. Graph: NACTO
Last year, e-scooter trips surpassed bike share for the first time. Graph: NACTO

About 36.5 million trips were taken on bike share. Those trips are primarily on just six  city-sponsored bike share systems: NYC’s Citi Bike, Boston’s Bluebikes, Chicago’s Divvy, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, Honolulu’s Biki and the Bay Area’s Ford GoBike. Together, these accounted for 84 percent of all docked bike share trips, with Citi Bike comprising almost half.

bike share egraph

Only 3 million trips were taken on pedal dockless bike share, as companies like ofo and Lime shifted their investments toward scooters or, in ofo’s case, got out of American micro mobility almost entirely.

The NACTO analysis did show evidence of big demand for e-bikes, although they were only available in a few limited locations in 2018, including New York and San Francisco. The report confirms what Citi Bike officials have long said: e-bikes tend to be borrowed many more times per day than a regular pedal bike — an average of an astounding 15 times a day in New York City vs. about five per day for the regular bike.

People paid about the same amount of money to rent e-scooters vs. docked bikes, with e-scooters averaging about $3.50 per trip and the cheapest being docked bike share trips made by members at $1.25 per trip.

Docked bike share was most likely to be used for commuting or transit connections. But a healthy number of scooter trips are also used for those purposes as well, NACTOs estimates show.

Graph: NACTO
Graph: NACTO

“Shared micromobility is one of the most energy and carbon-efficient modes of travel, and its rapid growth provides an opportunity to reduce emissions faster,” Linda Fedirko, senior program associate of Climateworks Foundation, said in a statement. “This mode is also showing early promise of addressing last-mile connectivity gaps in cities, and enabling the reallocation of public space for shared and active mobility.”

One note: several cities stopped expanding or investing in docked bike share when dockless arrived a few years ago. A few cities, such as Boston, New York and the Bay Area, have forged ahead anyway.

16 thoughts on Scooter Trips Surpass Docked Bike Share for the First Time

  1. Having just used scooters heavily on a trip to CA, I think this is great. These need to be on NY streets ASAP. Any argument I’ve every heard against them is basically reheated “CitiBikes are going to cause the apocalypse” nonsensical claptrap.

  2. I’m firmly pro-scooter, but it needs good support from the city. Dedicated scooter parking spaces! The “just leave them anywhere” model won’t fly on crowded midtown sidewalks.

  3. A higher fraction of scooter users vs bikeshare users are riding for “recreation / exercise”?? Just how much exercise is one getting stepping on and off of those scooters?

  4. What is interesting is that scooters are biggest in areas that dont have docked bike share, or very limited docked bike share. IE, scooters are illegal in NYC, Boston, and Philly, and limited by hard caps in DC and SF.

  5. Streets, perhaps…but let us pedestrians please have the sidewalks and crosswalks. Thats what Paris found was necessary after the initial free for all.

  6. I could see corrals def being useful in some core midtown/downtown locations, but I wouldn’t want to hold up implementing a new car free option to create tons of new scooter storage infrastructure city wide. I think the best use cases will be for intra brooklyn trips, where pretty much everyone I know ubers to avoid having to take a train into manhattan, and sidewalk space isn’t an issue like it is in midtown around rush hour.

    I also think these companies need to start fining or banning users who leave their scooters blocking sidewalks, regardless of where they are. I saw more than a few scooters simply placed sideways blocking the majority of the sidewalk in CA- since you send a picture at the end of every ride, this behavior should be easy enough to start cracking down on.

  7. If you’re going to meet some friends at the gym, or to go to a bar or restaurant, is that “social” or “recreation”?

  8. The casual flipflops this dude is wearing epitomizes the lack of awareness of what a spill at 15 miles an hour on asphalt or concrete (since so many infringe on sidewalks at speed) does to bare skin. The unprotected head, well what can you say? Ward of the state is a distinct possibility.

  9. The Verge just had an interesting article calling into question how long the e-scooter market can really last given the short lifespan of the scooters themselves. There seems to be some serious sustainability questions surrounding the ride-share market for these things.

    https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/12/18307591/electric-scooter-sharing-bird-lime-uber-economics-big-picture

    I also seriously question the environmental impact of e-scooters if they’re simply getting destroyed and replaced every few months, with the scrap shipped off to landfills.

  10. I want to like the scooters – they look like fun – but recently I’ve spent some time in two cities where they’ve been unleashed (DC/Arlington and Lisbon), and for now the implementation has not been ideal. Plenty of times in those cities, both as a pedestrian and as a cyclist, I nearly tripped over abandoned scooters on multiple occasions. Until the owners figure out a way to get users to corral them responsibly, I’m OK with holding off on bringing them to NYC.

  11. In Phoenix AZ we have GRID docked bikes but I never see anyone use them. Most people prefer scooters. Lime seems to have abandoned their bikes as well in favor of scooters, which is disappointing to me because I’d rather use a bike for exercise than balance on a scooter.

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