Importance of Trails in Planning for Electric-Assist Dockless Bikeshare and Scootershare

The following post draws on my last post and this 2018 post. As the Portland region prepares for Portland’s second pilot scooter program that starts on April 26th and Milwaukie’s first pilot scooter program that should start this spring, the most used and safest infrastructure for Clackamas County scooter riders likely will prohibit scooters. Since trails are fully separated from automobile traffic, I consider trails to be the safest infrastructure for scooter and bike riders. Unfortunately, many trails in the Portland region prohibit e-scooters and e-bikes. While Jonathan Maus at BikePortland learned that Portland does not enforce this prohibition, the prohibition still creates legal issues for e-scooter and e-bike riders. The following quotes summarize the issues.

“If the City is serious about accomplishing its goals, it needs to act soon to allow at least some level of e-bike and e-scooter access to these areas by non-disabled Portlanders.” – Chris Thomas, Portland lawyer at Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost

“The Scooter Pilot and your question have had us looking closely at the code and the way people use (and would like to use) our public parks, while maintaining our focus on safety,” – Mark Ross, Public Information Officer at Portland Parks & Recreation

Source: BikePortland

As the below map shows, the region has many existing, planned and conceptual regional trails. While I am still researching the legal issue, I believe the only trail in the region that does not prohibit e-bikes and e-scooters is the Banks-Vernonia Trail, which is not located in Clackamas County. The State Parks Commission amended their rules in 2018 to legally allow e-bikes and scooters on paths and trails managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD). According to OPRD’s website, the only trail in the region managed by OPRD is the Banks-Vernonia Trail. While the 40-Mile Loop Trail is listed on this website, I believe local jurisdictions like Portland manage it. Since many jurisdictions manage trails in the region, I hope OPRD and Metro educate all the local jurisdictions about the legal issue. I doubt e-bike and e-scooter users are aware of the legal issue, so we need to have regional legal consistency.

Do riders use trails more than bike lanes in Clackamas County?

Since I live and work in Clackamas County, which is located south of Portland, I focused on what infrastructure Clackamas County scooter and bike riders likely will use to travel. The region’s first scooter pilot program was legally limited to Portland and Portland did not release a map showing scooter rides south of Portland, so I do not have scooter data in Clackamas County yet. Scooter riders typically use the same infrastructure as cyclists, so I analyzed where cyclists currently ride in Clackamas County (left map). While bike lanes exist in Clackamas County, cyclists mostly use trails. In case you are not familiar with the trails, the trail system (right map) shows the same area as the left map. Since I believe all of the regional trails within these maps prohibit e-scooters and e-bikes, how will the jurisdictions that manage these trails approach enforcing their prohibitions? Will they change their policies to allow e-scooters and e-bikes?

Clackamas County Ride Report

Bike trips are mostly along trails. Source: Ride Report

Clackamas County Trails

Solid green lines are existing trails. Source: Metro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legal Issues in Washington, DC Region

The legal issues are not limited to the Portland region. Since I lived and worked on transportation issues in the DC region last year, I have been following the legal issues in the DC region. NOVA Parks, which owns and operates many trails in Northern Virginia, unanimously amended their rules in March 2019 to allow e-bikes on trails such as the popular Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail. Across the Potomac River in Maryland, the Montgomery County Planning Board is considering whether to allow e-bikes and e-scooters on county trails. Dockless e-bikeshare and e-scootershare and Capital Bikeshare Plus (e-bikes) already exist in Montgomery County, but people have been riding on county trails even though it is not legal. The DC region has many more jurisdictions, so the legal issues are not resolved yet. Are you seeing similar legal issues where you live?

 

Regional Planning for Electric-Assist Dockless Bikeshare and Scootershare

Since I believe most of the focus throughout the US to plan for electric-assist dockless bikeshare and scootershare has been on the largest cities, I feel the need to push for more regional planning. My employer, which is Clackamas Community College (CCC), has three campuses that are located in three suburban cities within the Portland region. While I am still surprised to be living car-free and working in America’s suburbia, this experience has provided me with a unique perspective on why regional transportation planning is crucial.

As the below map shows, Portland received responses from throughout the region to its 2018 e-scooter pilot user survey. Even though Portland’s e-scooter pilot was legally limited to Portland, I saw e-scooters as far south as Oregon City. I am not sure whether the companies or their customers were fined for parking scooters outside of Portland. While CCC and jurisdictions within Clackamas County are nervous about allowing e-scooters and e-bikes, is it feasible to ban e-scooters and e-bikes in Clackamas County when people will likely keep riding them south from Portland?

Portland Region Escooter Users Home Zip Code

Source: City of Portland’s February 1, 2019, E-Scooter Users Presentation at Portland State University https://www.slideshare.net/otrec/slideshelf

Through serving on the City of Oregon City’s Transportation Advisory Committee and Clackamas County’s Pedestrian/Bikeway Advisory Committee and talking with residents, I have learned that many Clackamas County residents are resistant to Portland-style transportation thinking and do not want anything to be planned. They believe planning will bring change to their desired small town and country lifestyles, so they have asked me and government staff to stop all planning efforts. Even though I tell residents that e-bikeshare and e-scootershare could reduce traffic congestion and demand for auto parking, which are their concerns, they keep telling me that they only want to widen roads and build more auto parking so they can get places faster by driving. They do not believe me when I tell them that e-bikeshare and e-scootershare have been proven in other places to reduce auto trips and increase non-auto trips.

Portland Scooter Traffic Congestion

Results from Portland’s 2018 E-Scooter Findings Report. Source: City of Portland.

I realize the residents that want to drive likely will not use e-bikeshare and e-scootershare. However, it has been challenging to convince them that other residents like me want to use these shared mobility services. People who want to keep driving will benefit from this because they likely will see reduced traffic congestion and demand for auto parking. As the below map shows, few people currently bike in Clackamas County, which is located south of Portland. This is a major reason why it is hard to convince auto-dependent residents that enough people will use shared mobility services in Clackamas County. I would like to show a similar map for scooter trips, but Portland only released scooter data for trips in Portland.

Ride Report Bike Stress Map Clackamas County

Source: Ride Report https://ride.report/portland

I experienced a similar public backlash when my employer, which was MetroBike, was hired by Montgomery County, MD to expand Capital Bikeshare into suburban areas. Since Capital Bikeshare uses stations and bikes cannot be locked within being docked at a station, Montgomery County could have asked MetroBike to stop the expansion. While some dockless bikeshare and scootershare companies have tried to encourage their customers to park in designated areas, the bikes and scooters are not required to be parked in these areas. This is the main reason why I believe dockless bikeshare and scootershare are coming to Clackamas County whether or not the residents want it. Even if Clackamas County requires the companies to remove their bikes and scooters, bikes and scooters will likely keep coming to Clackamas County until Portland forces the companies to leave the region.

As a planner and someone who wants more transportation choices, I want to be prepared for bikeshare and scootershare. While the public may believe it is not possible to plan for this, I believe it is possible as long as my partners are willing to keep working with me to create and implement a plan. Even though bikeshare and scootershare are quickly evolving, I have found this resource to be useful in my planning effort.

I have only been back in Oregon for eight months, but I am excited to share that I have quickly become a leader in the planning process to prepare the Portland region for bikeshare and scootershare. Since I want to make sure the planning process includes an equity lens and integrates smoothly with other transit services, my partners include TriMet (Portland region’s transit), Metro (Portland region’s MPO), several non-profit equity community groups, and several cities and counties. While Portland has been working with Ride Report to analyze its data, my suburban partners have been evaluating whether and how to include private companies in our planning process.

Portland plans to award permits and launch E-Scooter Pilot 2.0 for a year early this spring and expand Biketown (bikeshare) to include e-bikes this fall when it renews its contract with Motivate, which is owned by Lyft. Since Uber owns JUMP, which provides the bikes for Biketown, it should be interesting to see how Uber and Lyft work together run Biketown. I have never seen two competing companies run the same business together!

Portland Scooter

Next Steps from Portland’s 2018 E-Scooter Findings Report. Source: City of Portland.