In August 2021, New York City ended an extended prohibition on shared e-scooters and launched a pilot program allowing three companies — Bird, Lime and Veo — to operate in the Bronx. In June, the city announced that the program will be permanent and will expand into eastern Queens in 2024.
“Our pilot program met and exceeded our ambitious goals — and it's time we make it available in more neighborhoods,” New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said in a statement. Exact program boundaries in Queens have not yet been determined, though the department said the program will serve approximately 600,000 Queens residents, about one-quarter of the borough’s population.
As proof of the pilot’s success, the department pointed to a 2022 evaluation that reported “robust ridership and a strong safety record.” More than 2 million scooter rides have been taken by more than 115,000 users since the program began. The expanded operating zone will make shared e-scooters more accessible to New Yorkers, especially those in transit deserts, “thus increasing rides and overall utility for the system,” said Melinda Hanson, founder of urban mobility company Brightside and former head of sustainability at Bird.
Hanson said that the initial scope of the program — just the Bronx — was too limited to be useful to many potential riders. With use restricted to a specific area, e-scooters are only helpful if riders plan to stick within that area, she said, but New Yorkers frequently travel between boroughs. The e-scooters in the pilot could not travel to all other boroughs, nor will they be able to do so after this expansion. She believes the program should be expanded even further.
New York, with its traffic congestion, road safety challenges and climate and equity goals, should consider “smart investments'' such as “[widening micromobility] road space, expanding operating zones and increasing safe riding infrastructure,” Hanson said. “Cities need to put skin in the game,” she said