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Opinion >  Column

Rob Curley: For Spokane mayor David Condon, convenient and popular transport of Lime scooters moves beyond novelty. He’s right.

We’ve all seen them. And if you haven’t, you either don’t make it downtown much, or you’re colorblind.

I’m technically colorblind, which probably explains a lot of my wardrobe choices, and I’ve certainly noticed them.

When you see a bunch of them parked together, it’s hard not to notice what looks like a bizarre motorcycle gang for people who love a sour citrus fruit most typically associated with margaritas and the best drink you can order at the Sonic Drive-In, mashed up with a childhood toy that most of us probably haven’t ridden since well before puberty.

If you have seen the fresh fleet of Lime scooters across Spokane, you likely marveled at two things: just how darn fast they seem to go and how many adults seem to be riding them.

You might’ve even been a little worried about the possibility of getting run over by one of these little lime locomotives while you were walking on the sidewalk.

I’ve thought about all of those things.

I also knew I kinda wanted to ride one. That got me wondering whether Mayor Dave Condon had ridden one of these oddly-shaped, two-wheeled green rockets.

I sent him a message asking if he had been on one of the speedy planks yet, and if not, would he consider riding around town with me. This was a couple of weeks before the election, so I figured there was at least a decent chance he’d respond.

He did. He even said yes.

The problem was the day we’d chosen was cold and rainy during a week when it had been nothing but gorgeous around here. Despite that, both of us were still more than willing to try them out, regardless of the less-than-optimal riding conditions.

Without ever saying it, we both instinctively knew this was one of those rare moments when we both could do something as adults that is more typically associated with adolescence … and we could do it in the name of official business.

Okay, I actually do that kinda stuff a lot, but Condon is pretty good at acting like an adult. Totally convincing. Two-term mayors almost always have that skill.

Lime’s scooters have been in Spokane since early September for a roughly two-month pilot program that is about to end. The test was for the city – and more importantly, its residents – to see if we wanted them around town.

There have been Lime “bikes” in Spokane for this test, as well. It’s just that the bikes don’t matter.

In fact, the company behind the pilot was initially called LimeBike. Just like what we’ve now seen in Spokane firsthand, it doesn’t take long to figure out that the bicycles are a smart mixture of practical and common. And boring. If you’re going to ride a questionable-looking vehicle that’s activated by an app on your phone tied to a credit card, then practical and common aren’t necessarily the qualities you’re looking for. Or maybe that’s just me.

Besides, most of us already have bikes in our garages. We don’t have scooters that are easily acquired impulsively. More importantly, the scooters just look fun. Way more fun than a bicycle.

That’s because they are fun.

So, the mayor and I began our rainy-day ride.

There was no dress code discussed, but we both showed up in coats and ties. Once we added the helmets – the mayor kept talking about some helmet law that clearly no other Lime rider has ever heard of – we looked a little like Japanese business men, only less cool.

You can see the picture that’s running with this column. I’m just stating the obvious here.

We started at City Hall. Before you knew it, we were at Gonzaga. The first thing we both noticed was how easy it all was. And fast.

Mayor Dave said this was a much more legitimate mode of transportation than anyone had initially expected. He said there are City Hall employees who use them almost daily thanks to how much easier they are for quick trips.

He’s right. These scooters are definitely an easy way to get around town.

We’ve even seen that at The Spokesman-Review. The idea of walking to a parking garage or lot, then driving some place like Gonzaga or even to the courthouse, also means finding another parking garage or lot, then walking the rest of the way to your destination.

With the Lime scooters, you literally park it right next to your destination. Curbside parking is one thing, but with these, it’s doorside parking. This is convenience on a whole other level.

When they were first announced, one idea was that they might be for tourists or visitors, but locals would likely steer clear of them. That’s not proven to be the case. Tourists use them, but it’s the people who live here who have embraced them.

But it’s easy to see why tourists would love them.

That was one of the things Condon mentioned on our trip – that this was a really great way to see and experience the city. It is.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems that need to be ironed out for the scooters to return after winter.

Condon said the city will need to figure out enforcement issues. Going the wrong way down a one-way street still needs to warrant a ticket or a warning from the police … even on a scooter.

And yes, you can get a DUI for scooting under the influence. Whatever might be influencing you.

Technically, they’re supposed to be driven on the street. No one does. The scooters have found a home on the sidewalks. What should the city do, if anything, about that? Should they be allowed on the Centennial Trail?

Then there is the universally ignored helmet law.

These are a few of the things city officials will need to work on before the scooters can return.

Similar shared vehicle pilot programs are popping up all over the country. Seattle was one of the first places. Seattle let the bikes stay, but citing safety concerns, banned the scooters. Spokane has not seen a lot of accident reports related to the scooters, though it’s unclear if anyone would report them.

My high school-aged son, who rides them nearly every day even though he may or may not be old enough to do so according to Lime’s terms of service, recently had a nasty spill. It was never reported. Until I wrote that sentence.

Yet Condon, and other city officials polled, are fans of the scooters. They think there is a high likelihood that unlike Seattle, they will return. Part of the reason for that – and both the Mayor and I strongly agree on this point – is that we are generally a whole lot cooler than Seattle.

That and we don’t have a lot of crazy steep hills that end in the ocean.

Prevailing wisdom, colorblind or not, is that we’ll be seeing lots of green in the spring.

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