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Day 1: The Microbility Revolution Begins in The Bronx

11:23 PM EDT on August 17, 2021

E-scooters parked at Bronx Park East and Bronxdale Avenue. Photo: Fiifi Frimpong

Ride on!

The city’s rentable e-scooter pilot program — a stand-up micromobility version of Citi Bike — kicked off on Tuesday in the East Bronx, offering a new way to get around a corner of town with slow buses and no east-west subway lines, but it remains to be seen how popular the vehicles from tech companies Bird, Veo and Lime will become.

Eventually, the companies will deploy 3,000 devices across a wide zone east of the Bronx River Parkway and north of East Tremont Avenue, but on day one, there were 750 Lime scooters, 600 Bird scooters and 250 Veo scooters on the streets.

Only Veo shared its ridership numbers with Streetsblog: roughly 875 total rides — "a strong start!" said a company flack.

The rentable scooter revolution comes to New York years after cities across the country have allowed scooter companies to set up shop. As a result, curiosity seekers flocked to a 90-minute joint launch — with mixed reviews.

“I am thrilled to see the pilot finally launch; I only had to walk a short distance from home to find an e-scooter on Morris Park Avenue,” said Michael Kaess, a Bronx resident who stopped by the launch event at Bronxdale Avenue and Bronx Park East. Meanwhile, another neighborhood resident, who asked to remain anonymous, didn't bother to even try a scooter, citing fear of car drivers, who were racing past at typical speeds (i.e. dangerous).

“I am used to bikes,” she added before walking away.

People's fears of using scooters remains a hurdle for the companies, which, unlike the Department of Transportation, have no control over the unsafe design of most roads, the scattershot enforcement of reckless driving and the tardy installation of protected bike lanes — which remains slow in the Bronx, advocates said.

The other question will be whether scooter users will leave their rides in an appropriate place after use. E-scooters can be parked on most sidewalks location within the zone, but the companies require riders to park inside painted corrals on busy corridors such as along White Plains Road, in Co-op City, in Westchester Square, in Pelham Bay Park and outside the Jacobi Medical Center. There are currently 90 of the mandatory corrals and more will be added as the pilot progresses, according to a Department of Transportation report.

Riders were able to unlock scooters using a company app without much issue on Tuesday, and scooters did fan out within  the zone, and mostly stayed there (riders who attempt to leave the zone are be alerted on their phones to return to the designated area). Riders continue to be charged if scooters are left outside of the zone, said Phil Jones of Lime.

Each scooter, which has a top speed of 15 miles per hour after an initial, three-ride beginner period, costs $1 to rent, plus a per-minute charge (which is 39 cents per minute on a Bird or Veo device, but only 30 cents per minute on a Lime device). The companies provide discounts to residents of public housing or for people enrolled in “federal and state assistance programs.”

It wouldn't be launch day without a slideshow from the field:

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