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The Scooter Numbers Are In: Here’s How Many People Have Ridden One So Far

Brent Warren Brent Warren The Scooter Numbers Are In: Here’s How Many People Have Ridden One So FarPhoto by Walker Evans.
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Over 100,000 people — and maybe as many as 200,000 — have ridden a rentable electric scooter since they were first deployed in Columbus last summer. While that represents the total number of unique users, many people took more than one ride, and the total number of trips by scooter likely exceeds half a million.

The numbers are not exact because of gaps in the data submitted to the City of Columbus by Bird and Lime, the venture capital-backed companies that both started operating in the city in July.

Under the terms laid out in legislation passed by City Council in September, any operator of “shared mobility devices” is required to share a significant amount of data with the city, including daily and monthly usage summaries and real-time location information. Columbus Underground obtained the data from the city via a public records request.

Frank Williams, Administrator of the Infrastructure Management Division in the Department of Public Service, said that the companies have thus far been relatively responsive, but as the program continues, he hopes to see the data become more “consistent, in terms of usability and format.”

“We’ve been working pretty well together,” he added. “Some of things do require meeting (and) checking in on a regular basis…but the bottom line is, we want to be able to provide these mobility options in a sensible and collaborative way, and they want to be in the city, so they have to work with us.”

Whereas Bird has provided ridership numbers from its first full day of operations (July 12) onward, Lime only started sharing data with the city after the legislation was passed. That means that October and November are the only months that we have full Lime data for.

When the number of rides taken on Bird scooters is added to the number of Lime rides in October and November, the total comes to well over 400,000. Adding in an unknown number of Lime rides from August and September (which were Bird’s biggest months) would presumably take the total well above half a million.

That translates into an average of about 2,025 Bird rides a day and 2,069 Lime rides a day (in October and November). To add yet another complicating factor into the equation, none of these numbers include scooters that were placed on the campus of Ohio State University; those are governed by an agreement with the school and don’t fall under the purview of the city.

Even with incomplete data, the overall view of ridership provided by these numbers suggests that Columbus has been a relatively strong market for the companies, although not one of the very top performers.

A recent report released by Lime touted over 275,000 riders and more than a million scooter rides in Austin, but the company has been there since April and has saturated the city with many more scooters than have been released in Columbus (the new regulations limit each company to no more than 500 devices).

Numbers from Charlotte appear to be in the same ballpark as those from Columbus: 100,273 trips on both Lime and Bird scooters in July. A city like Paris is setting the upper bounds for Lime usage, with 2 million scooter rides and 315,000 users in just six months, according to Lime.

A few other nuggets gleaned from the Columbus data: from July 12 to the end of November, Bird registered a total of 76,013 unique riders. The average ride time during that time period was 16 and a half minutes, and an average of 430 Birds were placed on sidewalks around the city each day.

Williams said that the city has been working to verify the information provided by the companies. For example, since the rules stipulate that “at least some of the devices” must be deployed in neighborhoods outside of Downtown, his staff has been going to places like Linden to confirm that scooters that show up on a screen as available actually are in real life.

The speed at which the companies swooped into Columbus means that the city has in some ways been playing catch-up, trying to respond to their arrival with regulations and policies that are fair but not so specific that they become obsolete when some new mobility device is introduced in the future.

“We’re in a learning place,” said Williams. “As usage slows down due to the weather, we’re looking to better understand the data we have and hopefully continue to work together to respond to new situations as they arise.”

Additional Reading:

Will Columbus Ever Build More Protected Bike Lanes? Scooter Users May Have a Say

The State of Alternative Transportation in Columbus

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