International Parking & Mobility Institute



Scooter Parking

Six Insights from Three Years of Research

By Nicholas Klein, Anne Brown and Calvin Thigpen

The following contribution is based on the research article Clutter and Compliance: Scooter Parking Interventions and Perceptions published in Active Travel Studies Volume 3, Issue 1, dated January 9, 2023. Click here for the full research article.

Shared scooters began with a flurry of activity in 2017 when Bird introduced scooters to the streets of Santa Monica, California. In the five years since, the shared scooter industry has matured and expanded, with dozens of companies operating in hundreds of cities around the globe. During these years, scooter parking has emerged as a particularly salient issue for riders, the public, and public officials. Our research team has spent the past three years examining these issues. In this article, we share six insights from our research including important results and their implications for parking policy and practice.

Table of Contents

1. Improper scooter parking is infrequent (and cars mis-park more often).

First, we needed to establish a baseline: how much scooter mis-parking occurs? What types of mis-parking happen most often? And how does scooter mis-parking compare to mis-parking by other modes? As detailed in a previous IPMI article (Brown et al., 2021), we observed scooter, car, and bike parking behaviors in five US cities in 2020. We found that scooter mis-parking is rare: less than 1% of all parked scooters impeded pedestrian access across the five cities we studied. By comparison, a quarter of parked cars impeded travel for other road users.

In follow-up research in Auckland, New Zealand and Washington, DC in 2021, we found roughly similar results: 5-6% of scooters impeded pedestrian access, although 15-19% were mis-parked according to local regulations (e.g. parked against buildings, on landscaped vegetation, etc.). These findings align with studies conducted by others (Fang et al., 2018; Seattle Department of Transportation, 2019). (See Figure 1)

2. People overestimate rates of improper scooter parking.

While we observed low rates of scooter mis-parking, we were curious to know if public perception matched observed parking behaviors. We therefore complemented our field observations in Auckland and Washington, DC with surveys of the public. We asked respondents how often they thought scooters were parked improperly; in both cities, people overestimated rates of improper scooter parking. Most respondents in DC thought that more than 30% of scooters were mis-parked, when in reality fewer than 20% of scooters were mis-parked and only 6% impeded access. The average Auckland respondent thought that between 20 and 30% of scooters were mis-parked. Again, this is an overestimate: only 14% were mis-parked and fewer than 5% impeded access. 

Transportation professionals also overestimate scooter mis-parking. We surveyed audiences at transportation webinars and conferences and found that nearly 40% of practitioners believe that more than 30% of scooters are parked improperly. This mismatch between professional perceptions and observed parking behaviors could present practical challenges as transportation professionals are often responsible for designing micromobility programs and policies.

3. Riders and the public intuit that scooters should not impede sidewalks

The mismatch between public perceptions and observed rates of mis-parking begs the question: what does the public think constitutes scooter mis-parking? To answer this question, we surveyed people on the street in scooter-dense areas in Auckland and DC and conducted an online survey of scooter users in Auckland, New Zealand; Cologne, Germany; Milton Keynes, England; Nashville, U.S.; and Rome, Italy. We showed people pictures of scooters parking in various positions and asked them if the scooter was parked properly or improperly.

Both riders and the public clearly understand the importance of a clear pedestrian right-of-way: most respondents reported that scooters that were tipped over, blocked a crosswalk curb cut, were parked in the middle of the sidewalk, and blocked a door were improperly parked.

4. People think that tidy parking is proper parking

Up to this point, we analyzed whether scooters block pedestrian access and whether they adhere to local scooter parking regulations. These first two dimensions, access and regulatory adherence, are often the focus of policymakers and, by extension, scooter policy. But we find that the public often focuses on a third dimension of scooter parking not typically addressed by regulations: aesthetics. We presented survey respondents with two nearly identical scenarios of scooter parking. In both images, three scooters are parked in the furniture zone of a wide sidewalk, not obstructing pedestrian travel; the only difference between the two images is the orientation of the parked scooters.

To distinguish between regulations and aesthetics, we asked people (a) whether the pictured scooters were parked in accordance with local regulations and (b) whether they cluttered the street. Respondents overwhelmingly reported that the scooters parked parallel to one another were tidy and properly parked, while the scooters parked at angles relative to one another were viewed as cluttered and improperly parked. Furthermore, when looking across all ten of the parking scenarios we tested, a strong linear relationship appears between perceptions of clutter and proper parking. In other words: the public perceives scooters that park tidily as properly parked and vice versa.

5. Scooter riders want to do the right thing

We find that most scooters are properly parked; one explanation for this may be that most riders themselves report wanting to do the right thing. In our surveys, three-quarters reported that they have never parked a scooter improperly. These riders stated that the most important reason for proper parking was: “I care about how my parking might affect other travelers.” In contrast, those who mis-parked stated that the main reasons for mis-parking were unclear rules or not knowing the rules.

Given underlying motivations to park properly reported by most riders, we wanted to test if simple educational messages and reminders could affect riders’ parking behaviors.

In Washington, DC, we introduced in-app message reminders about proper parking for Lime users. Following their introduction, we observed improvements across all meaningful measures of parking behavior. The percentage of scooters impeding pedestrian access dropped from 6% to 0% and mis-parking according to local regulations dropped by 80%. In large part these changes were driven by reduced parking in the middle of the sidewalk and increased parking at bike racks.

In Auckland, we installed sidewalk decals in partnership with the city, to provide clear wayfinding and encouragement to use dedicated parking corrals. Again, parking compliance marginally improved, and corral use increased. (See Figures 5c & 5d)

6. Provide plentiful, intuitive parking and scooter riders will use it

In-app messages and sidewalk decals represent small-scale interventions that cities can implement to reduce scooter mis-parking, and both proved marginally effective at doing so. Cities can also implement broader scale interventions such as lock-to requirements, where scooters must be parked and physically locked to bike racks or other infrastructure. In the U.S., just four cities impose “lock-to” requirements (Brown, 2021). Fortuitously, we were able to test the effect that lock-to requirements have on scooter parking behavior. During our DC field observations, DC’s Department of Transportation introduced scooter lock-to requirements, and we examined the effect of lock-to by comparing scooter parking behaviors before and after these new regulations went into place (October 1, 2021).

Following lock-to requirements, scooter parking compliance improved substantially, attributable mostly to a twelve-fold increase in scooters parking at bike racks. An increase in scooters parked at bike racks was accompanied by a corresponding decline in scooters parked in the furniture zone, the middle of the sidewalk, and against buildings.

Calls to Action

The mismatch between actual and perceived rates of mis-parking suggests a potential need to reassess current parking regulations to better match observed parking behaviors. Our survey data suggest that scooter parking should be permitted in locations such as bike racks and parking corrals, where the majority of the public feel scooters are properly parked, where they do not impede access by other travelers, and where parking is consistent with other micromobility vehicles like bicycles.

Allowing scooter riders to use intuitive parking solutions is likely to have several related benefits: reduced non-compliant parking and improved public perceptions. In Chicago, for example, the introduction of physical locks resulted in 97.3% compliance in parking audits and a dramatic, 80% reduction of complaints (Chicago Department of Transportation, 2021). We likewise find that the introduction of lock-to requirements in DC resulted in a twelve-fold increase in bike rack parking and a substantial improvement in compliant parking.

Cities can kick off a positive feedback loop of improved parking behavior and public opinion: install more physical infrastructure to park micromobility vehicles – shared or personally owned. Physical infrastructure communicates parking regulations to riders and the wider public, unlike digital solutions. Cities can leverage fees paid by scooter companies to pay for additional parking infrastructure. If designed well, parking infrastructure can also encourage scooter users to ride on the road rather than the sidewalk.

Micromobility companies can play a part in proper vehicle parking by clearly communicating parking rules and providing regular reminders. Our research shows that simple in-app reminders can improve parking compliance, and wayfinding can likewise help direct riders, who are overwhelmingly inclined to park appropriately, to dedicated parking infrastructure. Over time, these measures, like the institutionalization of car parking rules and signage, can make scooter parking simpler and improve compliance.

Finally, we urge policymakers to focus on simple, effective solutions, which ideally resolve problems before they occur, rather flashy technological fixes, which often react to problems that have already emerged. Parking racks and corrals provide dedicated space for tidy compliant parking; riders may encounter “geofenced” parking bans and other technological solutions after they’ve already begun parking the scooter, making it difficult for them to backtrack to a proper location for parking. In addition, implementing parking regulations and enforcement through digital platforms has a spotty track record and only communicates rules to riders while remaining invisible to the public (Dunn, 2020). Further, riders may encounter difficulties cross-referencing rules presented on a digital map against their location in the cityscape, and they too would benefit from the “certainty” provided by physical infrastructure. Adorning shared scooters with a multitude of advanced technologies (expensive GPS units, cameras, automated reality, autonomous parking) is a distraction, especially when effective, low-cost, tested solutions are already available.

Please click here to read the full research article. The article summarizes the scholarly and gray literature on scooter parking. It then presents the methods and findings from the first study and the second study in sequence. They conclude with a general discussion that ties the two studies together and offers suggestions for policy.

Read more

Brown, Anne, Nicholas J. Klein, Calvin Thigpen, and Nicholas Williams. 2020. “Impeding Access: The Frequency and Characteristics of Improper Scooter, Bike, and Car Parking.” Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives 4 (March): 100099.

Brown, Anne, Nicholas J. Klein, and Calvin Thigpen. 2021. “Can You Park Your Scooter There? Why Scooter Riders Mispark and What to Do About It.” Findings, February, 19537.

Brown, Anne, Nicholas Klein, and Calvin Thigpen. 2020. “Sizing Up Multi-Modal Parking Violations.” Parking & Mobility Magazine, September, 24–27.

Brown, Anne. 2021. “Micromobility, Macro Goals: Aligning Scooter Parking Policy with Broader City Objectives.” Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives 12 (December): 100508.

Chicago Department of Transportation. (2021). 2020 E-Scooter Pilot Evaluation. Available from

Dunn, Peter T. 2020. “Participatory Infrastructures: The Politics of Mobility Platforms.” Urban Planning 5 (4): 335–46.

Fang, Kevin, Asha Weinstein Agrawal, Jeremy Steele, John Joseph Hunter, and Ashley M Hooper. 2018. “Where Do Riders Park Dockless, Shared Electric Scooters? Findings from San Jose, California.” Project 1713. San Jose, California: Mineta Transportation Institute, San José State University.

Klein, Nicholas, Anne Brown, and Calvin Thigpen. 2022. “Naughty Scooter Parking: Public Perceptions & Policy Intervention.” SocArXiv.

Seattle Department of Transportation, 2019. 2019 Quarter 3 Bike Share Summary Report. Seattle, WA.

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