A new fleet of citrus-green scooters may potentially be whizzing through campus come May to join the ranks of LimeBikes, the characteristically green bikes that hit Ithaca streets last April and quickly garnered popularity with Ithaca residents and Cornell students.
To address various complaints about the bikes, including manual pedaling and relatively low speed, the city is considering an alternative choice for the “last mile” in the daily commute.
The Lime electronic scooter is essentially a stand-up kick scooter that runs on electricity. Riders download the Lime app, scan it to unlock a nearby scooter, step on to the floorboard, push the throttle button and the pay-by-minute journey begins. The scooters, like the bikes, will cost one dollar to unlock and fifteen cents per minute.
Several Cornell students who have previously used Lime bikes expressed excitement about the addition of e-scooters. Yuran Zhang ’22 said he has “been looking forward to it for so long!”
Lime’s launch plan, however, is still awaiting final approval by the Ithaca Common Council due to concerns about safety issues related to Ithaca’s hilly geography. Such concerns include vehicle visibility given the scooters’ smaller sizes, sidewalk scooter use protocol and vehicle handling education.
The city’s Mobility, Accessibility and Transportation Commission will have the final say. They will base their decision on E-scooter performance in other cities, according to Ithaca Common Council member Seph Murtagh (D-2nd Ward).
“It is a big decision for the question of whether or not we are gonna allow the e-scooters in Ithaca. I think there are pros and cons,” Murtagh told The Sun. He explained that while the e-scooters provide an alternative transportation method, safety concerns loom regarding riding on sidewalks, riding without helmets and young children operating the scooters.
According to Murtagh, installations of new bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure have been “successful” so far, citing projects such as the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, the Black Diamond Trail and some of the busier bike lanes and pedestrian crossings.
However, “there are still many areas of the city where it’s difficult or dangerous to ride a bike, not to mention a scooter,” Murtagh said.
Jeff Goodmark, Ithaca operations manager for Lime, expressed confidence that the company’s scooters will be in the streets of Ithaca this spring. Emphasizing that scooters are “accessible and equitable”, he told Ithaca Voice that the company would update scooters with new safety features such as larger wheels, upgraded brakes and brighter lights.
Murtagh also expressed concerns about the potentially steep learning curve facing new riders in handling the e-scooters.
Goodmark told the Ithaca Voice that the company would introduce training clinics and one-on-one lessons to teach community members about safe usage of the e-scooters.
Several Cornell students expressed excitement for the e-scooters. “I have only used Lime bikes for two or three times each past semester as pedaling up the slope could so difficult. E-scooters are definitely better as they are electricity-driven,” said Yifan He ’21.
“E-scooters could be more popular for students than bikes. A lot of us just don’t want to be pedaling to sweat and look clumsy to friends you know? But E-scooters are like skateboards, you can just stand up and move fast while looking cool,” Zhang said.
However, student concerns remain about how available E-scooters would be on-campus with factors such as the slopes and the difficult weather. “I feel like it would be dangerous riding e-scooters down the hills. I wonder would they allow e-scooters entering areas like West Campus?” Yifan questioned.
Zhang also expressed worry about the electric scooters on areas with snow, rain and other precipitation during the winter months.
“There’s definitely a concern about the use of e-scooters on hills since we live in such a hilly place,” Murtagh said, but added that it was likely that Cornell would be included in a pilot program if the scooters were approved for use in the Ithaca area.