The demand for the e-scooters is there, Cruz said, but growing the ridership will depend on transit officials working out small kinks with the program.
“We’re a transit desert—not everyone owns a vehicle so this is just one more option to get folks to the bus or train,” Cruz said. “The ridership is there. It is just going to take some growing pains—sharing the roadway takes some getting used to for motorists and pedestrians.”
For many residents, Cruz said, safety was the top concern going into the program. That was also a prevailing worry among state and city policymakers who for years would not legalize electric scooters and bikes on New York streets. It was not until 2020—when the pandemic changed the equation on micromobility—that the state Legislature opened the door to the last major untapped market for electric scooters and bikes, and the city followed suit.
Rodriguez credits the DOT with baking safety features into contractual and operational requirements for the pilot’s three e-scooter operators. For instance, the city requires in-app training and a “beginner mode” that restricts riders’ first three trips to a 10 mph speed limit, and they cannot start the initial rides in the overnight hours. The city is rolling out new protected bike lanes to the area, although that has been slow going.
Tiffany-Ann Taylor, vice president of transportation at the Regional Plan Association, said she’s pleased that the city has focused its pilot program on the Bronx. Increasing connectivity in the outer boroughs is the key to improving transit equity in the city, she said. She hopes e-scooters will become another tool in the city’s arsenal for meeting New Yorkers’ transit needs, she said.
“Introducing new technology to neighborhoods is always great, but we should also continue to balance what the needs of the demographics actually are,” Taylor said. “I don’t necessarily think that everybody wants to ride a scooter, just like not everybody wants to ride a bicycle, or that the scooter or bicycle may not be accessible to everyone, given different mobility challenges.”
To that end, a comprehensive micromobility plan, similar to the city’s streets master plan, could help officials chart where e-scooters would be most effective, standardize some of the wonky details of how they operate and help educate New Yorkers on how to ride.
“What does that look like in various parts of the city where the sidewalk widths are different or where some neighborhoods have protected bike lanes and some don’t? How do these vehicles interact with trucks? Do you want to register them?” Taylor said. “I think clarity about those types of things would be really helpful in the city adopting micromobility technology and figuring out where it makes the most sense.”