Jul 9, 2023 - Transit

Test Ride: We tested every e-scooter rental in Chicago

woman with a helmet

Monica tried out four e-scooters for you. Photo courtesy of Colin McMahon

It's been about a year since Chicago launched a citywide e-scooter program with four companies, greatly expanding our options for a quick local trip.

Yes, but: It's still hard to figure out which scooter service is the best value or even all the rules.

Why it matters: Data suggest that e-scooters could cut hundreds of thousands of local car rides each year, reducing congestion and emissions, all while offering some roadway fun.

Reality check: Studies also show a rise in scooter-related emergency room visits when sharable scooter programs start in cities.

  • During Chicago's 2019 and 2020 pilots, hospitals saw 0.2 e-scooter-related injuries per 100,000 rides, some among pedestrians.
  • City officials say more recent local data are not yet available.

Be smart: Wear a dang helmet (even if you and I are the only ones), don't ride on sidewalks, and study the safety rules.

  • You can't ride them on the Lakefront Trail, the Riverwalk or 606.

By the numbers: There are about 4,000 sharable e-scooters on Chicago streets, half of which are supposed to be located on the South and West Sides.

  • Their top speed is 15 mph.

What's happening: I recently took a spin on each of the four e-scooter rentals to give you their respective pros and cons for our Test Drive feature.

Superpedestrian

scooter
Superpedestrian scooter. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Service area: No limits throughout the city.

The experience: Sturdy scooter, easy to use after completing a lengthy quiz about safety.

The intrigue: It allowed me to ride on the sidewalk with power, which it's not supposed to do.

Cost: $1 to unlock and 39 cents a minute. My bill was $5.68 for 12 minutes.

Deals: Superpedestrian offers day, hourly and multi-ride passes that let you e-scooter for as low as 13 cents a minute.

Extras: It also offers low-income rates, adaptable vehicles for riders with disabilities and ways to book for people without smartphones or credit cards.

Lime

scooter
Lime scooter. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Service area: Throughout the city.

The experience: Very smooth handling and easy to unlock, and you don't have to download a new app if you already have Uber.

The intrigue: It also allowed me to ride on the sidewalk with power.

Cost: $1 to start and then 39 cents a minute. My bill was $4.07 for 7 minutes.

Deals: Three-day passes give you unlimited rides adding up to 60 minutes for $10.99 or up to 240 minutes for $36.99.

Spin

scooter
Spin scooter. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Service area: Throughout the city.

The experience: Decent handling; easy to unlock after you download the app and take a short safety quiz.

The intrigue: While Spin scooters operate with power on sidewalks, they send a message to your phone scolding you for doing so. Nice.

Cost: $1 to start and then 49 cents a minute. $4.90 for six minutes.

Deals: A 3-day, 60-minute pass for $11.99 and a 150-minute pass for $27.99.

Extras: Spin says it aims to transition to all renewable power, achieve 100% landfill diversion and reach a 24-month life cycle for each scooter by 2025.

Divvy/Lyft

scooter
New Divvy/Lyft scooter. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Service area: From Damen to Lake Michigan and from Armitage to Pershing Road.

The experience: Divvy/Lyft offers two models. I rode the new safer one with the blue tires. Your Divvy or Lyft app indicates which types are in your area.

  • Excellent handling and the only e-scooter I found in Chicago with turn signals, a cellphone holder and sensors that turn off power on sidewalks.

Yes, but: You have to start and finish at a Divvy docking station or pay an extra fee for locking it to a rack or pole.

  • The Lyft app prompts you to say where you're going, which can be annoying if you just want to zoom around.

Cost: $1 to unlock and 42 cents a minute.

Deals: Free unlocks and 27 cents a minute with a Divvy membership.

  • It's 10 cents a minute with an income-qualified Divvy for All membership.

āœ… The winner: It's tough to narrow this list down, but for convenience, ride and deals, I'd have to go with Lime.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to reflect that no Chicago e-scooter rentals are permitted on the Lakefront Trail, Riverwalk or 606.

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