Spin Scooter
An electric scooter provided by Spin sits parked on the corner of H and S 16th streets on Monday, Sept. 21. Photo by Audrey Brooker.

Electric scooters seemingly popped up overnight on the corners and sidewalks of downtown Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus on Sept. 1.

As of Sept. 14, 7,980 total scooter trips occurred in Lincoln, with the average ride distance around 1.2 miles and the average trip duration being about 13.5 minutes, according to Erika Hill, public information officer for Lincoln Transportation and Utilities.

The devices, provided by California-based vendors Bird and Spin, are a part of the ScooterLNK pilot program which will operate in the city for at least a year. After the year passes, the City of Lincoln and Lincoln City Council will decide whether or not to continue the program.

“Lincoln Transportation and Utilities’ role is to assist with running a safe micromobility program that encourages environmentally friendly transportation,” Hill said. “We cannot speculate what will happen in the future.”

The scooter usage is limited to the area as far north as the UNL campus, as far south as the Capitol Building, and in between Pinnacle Arena Drive and Antelope Valley Parkway. Additionally, city ordinances prohibit them from being ridden on sidewalks, and users are required to follow the same traffic guidelines as bikers. A failure to comply may result in a fine, according to Hill.

So far, the ScooterLNK program has not affected Lincoln Transportation and Utilities’ other program BikeLNK, according to Hill. She said the bike program is membership-based, while the scooter program usage is more random as users simply download the Bird or Spin vendor apps and don’t need to enroll in any program.

“Riders tend to have longer term memberships that include unlimited trips,” Hill said. “This means you can ride as often as you’d like, in either 24 hours, 72 hours, 31 days or 365 days. BikeLNK riders can use other modes of transportation, and it won’t impact their membership of unlimited trips.”

While some UNL students are excited about the prospects of the scooter program, some also have reservations about the and safety of scooter usage amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think they’re [the scooters] a good idea. They might become more popular among students than the bikes,” said Haley Schilling, a junior biology and psychology double major at UNL. “I don’t think it’s sanitary, though. There’s no way to monitor how much time is between people using it and if there’s time for the germs to die, and there’s no proof anyone is cleaning them.”

Bird and Spin have each provided the city with their own plans and guidelines for scooter sanitation. It is also recommended by Lincoln Transportation and Utilities that users follow CDC guidelines and wash their hands before and after riding.

“When scooters are picked up to recharge overnight, they are sanitized before being deployed for use the following day,” Hill said. “Additionally, we have sanitation stations at each of our designated scooter parking locations.” 

Skylar Solomon, a sophomore anthropology major at UNL remains optimistic about the sanitariness of the ScooterLNK program.

“If they’re [the scooters] outside, then I think the sun’s UV light should basically kill any germ cells,” Solomon said. “Overall, I think they’ll be safe.”

Additionally, Schilling maintains concerns regarding the logistics of the program.

“It feels very inconvenient and hazardous when there’s lots of people walking around campus, and there’s just a scooter in the middle of the sidewalk,” she said. “It would probably be better to move them to the side so they’re out of the way.”

As a part of the program, there are specific guidelines on where and how to park the scooters, including giving pedestrians at least 4 feet of space to walk.

“Once the user is ready to end their ride, they must park it on the City Right-of-Way, leaving room for pedestrians to walk by,” Hill said. “Users can also park their scooters at one of six designated scooter parking locations found along the perimeter of the downtown UNL Campus.”

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A marked ScooterLNK parking zone outside of the Nebraska Union. Photo Courtesy of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities

Users are also prompted by the Bird and Spin apps to take a picture of the scooter after riding to prove it was parked correctly, according to Hill.

Electric scooters will remain in downtown Lincoln until at least Sept. 1, 2021.

Broadcast Production and Sports Media student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from Long Island, New York