7 things to know about electric scooters before they hit Durham streets Thursday

The scooters are coming! The scooters are coming!

And soon.

People who live in, work in or visit Durham will have a new way of getting around starting Thursday when up to 800 electric scooters will be plopped on sidewalks around Durham.

Here are 7 things you’ll need to know:

1. Who is providing the scooters?

Four companies are offering scooters in Durham. Bird scooters are black. Gotcha scooters are turquoise. Lime scooters are, well, lime green. Spin’s scooters are orange.

2. How much does it cost to ride?

It’s a $1 to unlock a scooter but the per-mile charge may vary per company. To get started download the scooter app. But if you don’t have a smartphone, don’t worry, the city is requiring each company to have other payment methods for customers who do not have credit or debit cards or smartphones.

3. Where can you find the scooters?

They’ll be scattered all around Durham but most will likely be found downtown inside the Loop, near Ninth Street, and around Duke and N.C. Central universities. The city is requiring the e-scooter operators to have 20 percent of their fleet in locations for people who have low and moderate incomes.

4. Where can you ride the scooters?

On Durham streets, which means sticking to bike lanes where they’re available. Scooters are prohibited on sidewalks or greenways, according to the city ordinance. Riders must follow traffic rules like riding on the right side of the road, following traffic signals and obeying stop signs.

5. Who can ride the scooters?

Riders must be 16 years or older, according to the city ordinance. While not required, riders are encouraged to wear a helmet.

6. When can you ride the scooters?

E-scooters will generally be available from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. That may change depending on the weather and other factors.

7. What happens at the end of the ride?

Riders should park e-scooters upright and out of the way of pedestrians and moving vehicles.

From idea to launch

The Durham City Council began preparing for electric scooters last fall after seeing what happened in Raleigh after Bird and Lime dropped their scooters in the city without permission.

It approved a permitting process for scooters that also will apply to other methods of transportation, like bicycles and electric bikes.

“We let the companies know we were working on an ordinance and asked them hold off putting the scooters out,” said Dale McKeel, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “We did talk to Raleigh and to other cities to see how they regulated the scooters. We had some experience with the bikeshare, so it wasn’t completely new.”

The four companies demonstrated their scooters Tuesday to City Council members Jillian Johnson and Charlie Reece and to members of the city’s Transportation Department.

“Some areas of Durham will be more scooter-friendly than others,” Johnson said. “I think they’ll end up being more concentrated in those areas. But with this sort of technology, I think there are places where it would be useful for people who don’t have cars or can’t afford cars.”

As for her demonstration ride, Johnson said it was quite fun.

“I only live about a mile from downtown,” she said. “It’s actually a really good option for me. Right now I have to drop my kid off at school before I come downtown, but starting next year, it’s something I might do. I’m kind of the target market for this kind of thing.”

Johnson said people should use common sense when it comes to riding the scooters.

“It’s important for people to know the rules and follow the rules,” she said. “I think the majority of people will follow the rules because they recognize it’s the safest thing to do.”

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Joe Johnson is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer. He most recently covered towns in western Wake County and Chatham County. Before that, he covered high school sports for The Herald-Sun.