Spin Scooters have been kicked to the curb, but that doesn’t mean they are gone forever.
Electric scooters, which are illegal on roadways throughout Pennsylvania, had been allowed in Pittsburgh because the state legislature authorized the city to run a two-year pilot program that started in July 2021.
In order for the program to continue, it needed authorization from the state legislature to allow rental scooters in every city statewide. That bill passed the state Senate Transportation Committee but was tabled on June 28 without the PA State Senate acting on it.
Becky Boyle, a spokesperson for State Senator Lindsey Williams (D-West View), who is a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the legislation can still be put before the full Senate, which is not scheduled to be back in session until September.
In a press release, the city called the end of the pilot program “a pause.”
“Starting on Monday, July 10, Spin scooters will not be operable in the City of Pittsburgh and the fleet will be removed from the public right-of-way in the coming weeks. The City of Pittsburgh will continue to work with state legislators to reauthorize this critical mode of transportation,” the city said in its release.
On July 12, Spin wrote to its riders asking them to individually contact their state senators asking them to pass a bill allowing scooters in the state.
“This is a situation where your advocacy truly has the potential to make a difference,” the letter said. “If you know your senator, you can email them directly or confirm using this link, and share the ways in which e-scooters have been beneficial for you.”
Ever since Spin rode into town, the scooters have been the subject of complaints by residents as riders carelessly blocked sidewalks with them. Members of the disability community testified to City Council that they are a tripping hazard for blind pedestrians and that people in wheelchairs have been unable to get around them and forced into the street.
At a meeting with City Council in April, Kim Lucas, director of the city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI), praised Spin’s responsiveness. She also said that out of nearly 1 million rides on Spin scooters there have only been “37 total reports of injury through the designated reporting systems. And zero fatalities.”
Kate Chertik of Beaver County knew that was wrong.
Immediately after reading about the City Council meeting in which Lucas said there had been no fatalities, Chertik wrote to City Council to tell them that her 35-year-old brother, Lawrence, who lived in Allegheny Center, was killed on the North Shore riding a scooter when he hit a pothole and was thrown. His spleen was ruptured in the crash and he suffered internal bleeding.
“I don’t know how I could go about speaking to someone to get these scooters banned but they are reckless,” Chertik wrote. “Is there anyone I can speak to directly? I can provide the police report, reports from the hospital, whatever it takes. I do NOT want these scooters to rip apart another family like it has mine.”
She also provided her phone number in the email she sent to City Council.
In DOMI’s report to the Senate and House Transportation Committees a month later, it acknowledged there had been a report of a death on a scooter, but stated it was not verified.
“DOMI recently became aware of a fatality that took place after a Spin ride. DOMI is currently investigating the report but has yet to confirm the details,” the report stated.
Chertik said the only city official she heard from after the hearing on scooters was District 5 Councilmember Barb Warwick, who had called the hearing. If DOMI is investigating the death, no one from that department or the city administration has ever contacted the Chertik’s family, Kate Chertik said after the “pause” was announced.
DOMI’s report also acknowledged that “incidents may occur without any reporting,” but immediately dismissed the importance of that by saying, “Collectively, we cannot act on unverified or unreported incidents. This highlights a gap in reporting mechanisms.”
In addition to Lawrence Chertik’s death, there have also been serious injuries: a Pitt student suffered three skull fractures in a fall and a Kenny Chesney fan from Ohio lacerated her liver.
The database maintained by Spin had more injuries: A rider was knocked unconscious, one suffered a broken foot, another a broken ankle, while a fourth rider had a broken shoulder. One rider said they suffered nerve damage in their hand, and another dislocated their jaw.
The scooter pilot program, which the state authorized to begin on July 1, 2021, was not passed by Pittsburgh City Council until eight days later — so the two-year program did not expire until July 9 this year.
Warwick was not on City Council when the pilot program was approved.
“I’ve always said that scooters are fun, but they also created a lot of problems, especially for our disabled community,” she said after the city announced that the program was suspended. “So, as a city, this seems like a good opportunity to concentrate on what we know is working. There’s so much to be done in terms of pedestrian, bike and transit access and safety. Our goal of making POGOH bikes available and convenient for residents in every neighborhood is absolutely achievable. And there are so many ways we could be collaborating better with PRT to get more people on the bus.
“Life without a car in Pittsburgh is closer than we think — and we get there by focusing our mobility efforts on solutions that work for everyone.”
“Residents throughout Pittsburgh who are disabled, elderly, have real mobility needs, and are in search of real mobility solutions have long raised concerns about scooters and their prioritization in the city’s transportation policy,” Pittsburghers For Public Transit said in a statement. “It is good that the PA Senate heard these concerns, however, Pittsburghers for Public Transit’s goal has never been to simply end a scooter program and the goals and message at the core of our campaign remain the same. As legislators in the City of Pittsburgh and in Harrisburg continue to shape the future of our transportation system, Pittsburghers for Public Transit continues to urge them to center the kinds of mobility priorities that will make equity and access a reality in our communities.”