‘It’s costing thousands of dollars:’ People are using escooters to vandalize plazas in Downtown Boise

Escooters continue to grow in popularity in Boise, but a rash of vandalism broke out in recent weeks.

Vandals marred the plaza at Jack’s Urban Meeting Place with hundreds of scuff marks – one of several areas Downtown damaged.

Tyler Johnson with the City of Boise said cameras caught escooter riders on tape marking up the plaza. It caused enough concern that officials at JUMP raised the problem with Boise mayor Dave Bieter.

“One of the things I’m concerned about… I just had one of the local businesses talk about today are the markings on the sidewalks,” Bieter said – later confirming he talked to officials at JUMP.

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“We have been in contact with US Bank building folks as well as the Grove Plaza and JUMP as well,” City of Boise Senior Administrative Services Manager Craig Croner told the city council last month. “It’s costing some of the businesses thousands of dollars to clean it up and even after they clean it up, it’s still leaving the mark because the concrete gets bleached.”

Maggie Sodeberg with JUMP wouldn’t comment – but said her organization is working with the escooter companies directly.

Bird, Lime respond

JUMP scooter vandalism
Hundreds of black marks mar the plaza at Jack’s Urban Meeting Place in Boise. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Through 7 months, 64,138 people rode a scooter in Boise, a total of 236,882 times. In all, users rode more than 242,929 miles.

Both Bird and Lime issued similar statements to BoiseDev when asked a series of questions about the issue.

Bird: “Vandalism of any kind should not be accepted, full stop. At Bird, we have zero tolerance for vandalism and aggressively address it when it occurs in communities where we are meeting the needs for sustainable transportation options. We encourage everyone in these communities — whether they ride Bird or not — to report vandalism done to or with our vehicles as we are committed to acting swiftly and effectively. If you see something, report it to us at hello@bird.co.”

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Lime: “Vandalizing property is wrong and only harms those who rely on these vehicles everyday (sic) as an affordable, convenient way to get around. If anyone sees a Lime scooter that they suspect is being tampered with or vandalized, we ask that they please immediately report it to our 24/7 customer service team, available through the app, email (support@li.me), and phone or text (1-888-LIME-345).”

Boise looking at solutions

A contractor works to remove scuff marks from scooters at Jack’s Urban Meeting Place. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Croner said the City of Boise is looking at several solutions to curb the problem.

He said that matching security footage to each scooter’s unique identifier could make punishment for bad behavior possible.

“If we can actually pinpoint the device, we are going to advocate the company kick the person off of the device,” he said.

Another option is to use geofencing capabilities to try and keep people out of certain areas. Geofences are already in place around the Idaho Statehouse, the block containing the Grove Plaza and portions of Boise State Univerity.

Johnson said Boise State officials became concerned about scooter issues early on.

“They’ve set some geofencing up,” Johnson said. “Obviously college students and technology are a potential for hot spots.”

Downtown Boise geogence zones on the Bird app.

A Lime spokesperson said geofencing blocks users from parking the devices in those areas. It also cuts the speed of the device to a minimal level. The spokesperson said bringing the speed down to zero could cause issues with riders being thrown from the scooter.

“Whenever we communicate with the companies, they are pretty willing to solve problems,” Johnson said. “One of the areas we’ve had is in front of Main Street Station. We kept getting scooters that were being deployed right where the wheelchair ramp was for the shuttle.”

He said that the companies responded and retrained the folks who deploy the scooters, and set up geofences to restrict access.

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