The town of Brookline became the first community in Massachusetts to launch an electric scooter-sharing pilot program Monday — maybe not with the symbolic start for which officials had hoped.
To commemorate the beginning of the seven-and-a-half-month test run, representatives from the town and from Bird and Lime, the two scooter companies participating in the program, convened at Brookline Town Hall to take a literal test run around the property Monday morning. And according to reporters at the scene, the ceremonial first ride resulted in one woman going to the hospital.
— Callum Borchers (@callumborchers) April 1, 2019
WBUR reports that Kim Smith, a 62-year-old member of the town advisory committee, “bloodied her head” after losing her balance while riding a Lime scooter and was stretchered into an ambulance en route to a nearby hospital.
Todd Kirrane, Brookline’s transportation administrator, says that Smith suffered a cut on her forehead with no other known injuries and, as multiple outlets reported Monday, is expected to make a full recovery. According to Kirrane, the accident occurred shortly after Smith began her ride and was the only injury he was aware of during the launch event, in which more than 50 people tried out the scooters.
“Like any other mobility devices including bicycles and motor vehicles, there is a learning curve with e-scooters and the Town advises that people take it slow, wear a helmet, and only ride them once you are comfortable doing so,” he told Boston.com in an email Monday afternoon.
As required by Brookline’s pilot program, Smith was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, Kirrane said. According to the town, Bird and Lime are working to distribute helmets to local riders as part of the pilot.
The two California-based companies are deploying around 200 dockless electric scooters — which cost $1 to unlock, plus an additional 15 cents per minute of the trip — in the Boston suburb as part of the program, with the possibility that more will be added based on demand. The two-wheeled vehicles can reach up to 15 mph and can be operated from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.. Users are required to have a driver’s license and be 18 years or older to ride. And riding on the sidewalk is strictly prohibited.
“You can ride in bike lanes, multi‐use paths and city streets,” reads Brookline’s “frequently asked questions” sheet.
“Town staff will monitor sidewalk riding during the pilot and may require scooter companies to engage in more robust rider education,” the document says, reminding riders to park “in between the street curb and walking path” so that the scooters do not block pedestrian traffic, entryways, or ramps.
Since Brookline is the first Massachusetts community to permit scooter-sharing companies, riders are discouraged from traveling outside of the 6.8-square-mile town — for now. According to The Boston Globe, both Bird and Lime will allow riders to travel into Boston, but they won’t be able to unlock and start a new trip inside the city’s limits. The companies will monitor trips using GPS and pick up any scooters parked in Boston within two hours, according to the Globe.
The Boston City Council recently passed an ordinance that would allow electric scooter-sharing companies to operate in the city once Bay State lawmakers change a state law — which was meant for faster, Vespa-style scoopers — that currently deems the two-wheeled, electric vehicles illegal. Gov. Charlie Baker is among those who have proposed fixing the state law.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has acknowledged that the statute wasn’t likely intended to regulate the type of scooters deployed by Bird and Lime and has left it up for cities and towns to enforce the state law.
However, after Bird unexpectedly deployed its scooters without permission in Cambridge and Somerville last summer, local officials ordered the company to remove the vehicles from their streets. While they expressed general openness to scooter-sharing programs, the cities said Bird would first have to go through a local permitting process and abide by state rules.
Boston officials say they’re hoping to adopt a regional framework with their neighbors — similar to the docked bike-sharing program BlueBikes — for allowing shared electric scooters. And, as evidenced Monday, Brookline isn’t waiting for state lawmakers to act.
The pilot program runs through Nov. 15. According to the town’s website, the pilot will help officials decide whether electric scooters contribute to their mobility, equity, safety, and climate action goals.
“The Town believes the most effective way to evaluate the role of scooters in Brookline is through an on‐the‐ground learning experience,” Brookline officials wrote in their scooter pilot FAQ sheet.
After Nov. 15, the town will “conduct an evaluation of whether scooters have a long‐term role” in Brookline. If so, scooter companies will be required to re-apply for permits on an annual basis. For the seven-and-half-month pilot program, Bird and Lime are each required to pay a $1,000 license fee and a surcharge of $1 per scooter per day.
“We believe this scooter network will increase mobility by helping our residents get to-and-from work, public transit, and recreational destinations—all while reducing carbon emissions and congestion on our streets,” Kirrane said in a statement Monday. “Scooters are an important part of a sustainable and reliable transportation network that the Greater Boston area desperately needs.”