Bronx Scooter Share Has Been a Huge Success, DOT Says as Phase II Prepares to Launch

Scooter park at Van Nest-Parkchester border. File photo: Streetsblog
Scooter park at Van Nest-Parkchester border. File photo: Streetsblog

This is not just a passing phase.

The Department of Transportation will soon launch the second phase of its e-scooter pilot in the Bronx — and the agency has been telling local community boards that the initial portion of the project has been an unqualified success: hundreds of thousands of rides, tens of thousands of individual customers, and no fatalities or even serious injuries.

Originally launching in August 2021, Phase 1 (the East Bronx) authorized e-scooter and sit-down scooter operators Lime, Bird, and Veo to deploy up to 1,000 e-scooters each in the neighborhoods of Wakefield, Edenwald, Co-Op City, Allerton, Morris Park, and Pelham Gardens.

If all goes to plan, Phase II will begin in June, doubling the maximum number of e-scooters each operator can deploy, for a total of 6,000 e-scooters, and expanding the service area to include Parkchester, Soundview, Clason Point, Throggs Neck, Schuylerville, and Country Club. (Map below.)

Map: DOT
Click to enlarge. Map: DOT

The pilot has proven to be quite popular, with over 505,000 trips recorded (an average of about 2,200 trips per day), and over 50,000 unique rider accounts. Since the e-scooters are equipped with GPS, DOT has been able to map where ridership is concentrated, primarily along the White Plains Road and Morris Park Avenue corridors.

Despite hand wringing over safety from community board members in the run up to the pilot, particularly from Community Board 11, the pilot’s safety record has proven to be encouraging. DOT had partnered with local hospitals to track incidents, and there have been no severe injuries or deaths recorded in connection to the program.

A DOT official credited their beginner mode requirement for this safety outcome. The beginner mode — which restricts riders to 10 miles per hour, and only allows for daylight riding — is enforced for a rider’s first 30 minutes (no matter how many rides it takes to meet that threshold).

In other cities, a DOT representative recently told Community Board 10, “a lot of the crashes or fatalities were happening when people had taken only one or two rides, they didn’t really know what they were doing yet, so that’s part of why we instituted the beginner mode.”

DOT had also limited service during times of inclement weather, and confirmed three instances when service was temporarily suspended: Hurricane Henri, and two snowstorms in January 2022.

The program has proven to be safe despite DOT’s failure to build out the East Bronx bike network that has long been promised. When the pilot was announced in April 2021, DOT said it would make safety improvements that year to White Plains Road, Eastchester Road, E. 233rd Street and Bronxdale Avenue, among others. DOT had presented plans for an unprotected bike lane network in Soundview [PDF] to CB9 in November, 2021.

But by the end of last year, only a portion of the White Plains Road project had been completed. DOT is going to be playing catch-up in 2022, although the agency has since proposed new projects for this year, including an extension of the White Plains Road protected bike lanes from E. 226th to E. 241st streets.

There are other limitations of the scooter pilot:

  • City Island remains outside the zone, even though island residents would benefit from the ability to easily get off — or move around within — the 1.4-mile-long spit, whose spine is City Island Avenue.

“Most people who would like scooters as a transportation alternative in this transit desert,” said City Islander John Doyle, citing poor bus service on the island. “Additionally, many people in this neighborhood run or bike on the avenue and within Pelham Bay Park.

“At the same time, we have the same outspoken reactionaries and relics of yesteryear that every other community has,” he added. “While they are surely a minority, they are loud, animated and they will be outspoken and against any sort of change, as they always are.”

Doyle was miffed that opponents of scooters will say that there is too much traffic on City Island Avenue in the summer as a way of blocking scooters — the irony being that a good scooter and bike share program could reduce traffic from cars.

Lily Gordon-Koven of the DOT explained the decision to excise City Island to Bronx CB11 in May, 2021: “One thing that we saw from other cities was that trips for e-scooters in these kinds of programs were mostly under two miles, and so we wanted to make sure we’re providing access in a way that makes sense, and there’s some concerns around making sure it’s an appropriate trip length for people, so that’s why City Island is not included at this time.”

  • On the other end of the Phase II pilot zone is Ferry Point Park, where the city has, at great expense, begun ferry service on a line that until recently terminated at Soundview. But apparently the dock is about a half-mile from the end of the scooter zone, requiring a long walk that will likely discourage scooter use.

“The ferry terminal down in Ferry Point Park is in a no-ride zone,” Bronxite Roy Smith said at the DOT’s April 13 presentation Community Board 10 presentation. (A DOT rep at that meeting said the agency is “working with” the Parks Department to make sure ferry customers can access scooters directly at the docks in both Ferry Point Park and at the Soundview stop. Subsequently, a DOT spokesman said the agency is also working with the Parks Department on allowing scooters inside Pelham Bay Park.)