Lime scooters are back in full force in Spokane.
But riders this year might notice some changes to the scooter fleet. The new batch of scooters in the city consists of Lime’s latest model, the Gen4 E-Scooter, built by the company’s in-house engineering team.
“They’re safer, have better handling, inflatable tires, front and rear brakes,” said Colin Quinn-Hurst, a city planner involved with pedestrian and cycling facilities. “They’re the first scooters that are designed from the ground up for the purpose of shared vehicles.”
Previous Lime scooter models available in Spokane were based on retail models, he said.
According to Lime, the Gen4 scooter differs in a number of ways. Most noticeable is a swappable battery pack at the base of the stem. The new battery packs can be exchanged in the field, which allows for “more sustainable operations in dense urban environments,” according to a fact sheet from Lime.
“We are able to charge the batteries in our warehouse and then use them interchangeably between all the vehicles so we don’t have to bring the vehicles back to the warehouse to charge them, just the batteries,” Lime spokesman Jacob Tugendrajch said in an email. “This cuts down on time and energy as well as van trips to keep the vehicles charged, plus the batteries are new and improved.”
The new scooters also feature larger tires, a lower deck to provide a lower center of gravity, “mountain-bike inspired” front suspension and dual brakes, among other improvements, according to the fact sheet.
Lime had 293 scooters on Spokane’s streets as of Monday, Brian Walker, a spokesman for the city’s Neighborhoods, Housing and Human Services department, said. The Lime fleet, which includes 1,500 electric scooters and 80 electric bikes, will be rolled out through the spring and summer as demand increases, Walker said.
The Gen4 E-Bikes, some of which were available in Spokane last summer, also will be reintroduced in the city at a later date. Some older models of the scooters and bikes may be included in the fleet, Walker said. However, Tugendrajch said Lime is in the process of transitioning the entire fleet to the new model.
Lime scooter users zipped throughout Riverfront Park as visitors and residents of Spokane enjoyed highs in the 50s on Sunday, one of the warmest days since last fall.
The vehicles are automatically slowed to 7 mph in Riverfront Park and 15 mph along the Centennial Trail. The scooters have a top speed of about 18 mph, Tugendrajch said.
Kristen Palmer was operating a scooter on Sunday near the Big Red Wagon after her 12-year-old son’s basketball tournament.
“I was kind of thinking if I should use a helmet,” said Palmer, who was visiting from Arlington, Washington. “It takes a minute to get your bearings, but I feel like it’s pretty safe.”
The Spokane City Council approved a law in 2019 allowing people who rent scooters to forgo helmets.
Children are not permitted to use the scooters, although many teens do.
According to Spokane Lime scooter user data, the average age of scooter riders is 33. One-quarter of the riders in Spokane are over the age of 40 and 31% were tourists, Walker said.
The newer models feel a little heavier and drive a little smoother, according to Bailey Topps and Nic Wilson, both from Hayden. The two spent Sunday afternoon cruising around downtown and shopping.
“I think that’s what they’re meant to be used for,” Topps said.
Thomas Pratt said that the scooters felt more “family friendly,” with improved braking and speed control.
“They’re fun,” he said on his way to River Park Square with his family. “It’s very convenient and not too expensive. You get a little adrenaline rush.”
Rules for the scooters have remained the same since last year.
Scooters are not permitted for use on the sidewalks in the downtown business area, which is enforced with fines of $115, he said. However, the scooters should be used on sidewalks in areas where the road speed is 30 mph and higher, according to the city.
Spokane will host an official Lime scooter launch date sometime in April, Walker said. Lime first arrived in Spokane in 2018. The company’s contract is up for renewal this year.