When e-scooters arrived in Bozeman, everyone knew.

About 100 of them lined sidewalks across the denser parts of town, and it wasn’t long before they could be seen zooming down streets.

Now that Blink Rides has been in Bozeman for nearly two months, the company’s performing better than expected in terms of use, owner Lana Kitto said. But with the popularity of the scooters, there have been some growing pains, and the city has received complaints regarding litter, sidewalk use and concerns for people with disabilities.

“I feel strongly that they are truly a nuisance to pedestrians as too many people ride them like drunken sailors and show zero respect, also, by leaving them scattered hither and yon, yes, even just laying in the middle of a sidewalk,” Rick Meis wrote in a public comment submission to the city of Bozeman.

The main recurring issues with scooters are people riding them on sidewalks and not following traffic laws, said Capt. Andy Knight with the Bozeman Police Department. The scooters are considered a vehicle, so they have to follow all the rules of the road, like a bike would. There have been no serious injuries so far, he said.

When people ride their bikes on the sidewalks and violate those rules, Knight said city officers have been giving out warnings. He doesn’t think the problem is rampant, though, and said he sees far more people riding bikes on the sidewalk than scooters.

He does see people leaving the scooters in the middle of sidewalks, but said that’s also a problem he sees with bikes.

“It’s really hard to regulate,” he said.

While Kitto is excited about how well the company is doing, she said she has heard some of these complaints, learned a lot and adjusted how she operates along the way, as any new business would.

The company was expected to perform at the lower end of the spectrum, compared to similar scooter operations. Kitto said data shows it’s trending on the middle end of that spectrum, though.

In the first four weeks Blink was open, it had more than 3,000 rides, and she said data collected from the scooters shows that more people are using them to commute.

“That’s a really awesome number,” Kitto said.

With more usage, though, she’s also seen vandalism. There was a case where someone deliberately vandalized a scooter downtown, and there have been damages due to accidents or carelessness.

The scooters were recently pulled from the streets for about a week to help with the investigation, and Blink also collected data from them. Scooters returned last Friday.

Before that, about 25% of scooters were down due to misuse, vandalism or being run over. That’s a high percentage. And because there are so many theft-prevention screws in place, Kitto said repairs take a long time. It usually costs $75 to $500 to fix a scooter, and replacing one altogether costs about $1,500.

To alleviate vandalism, Kitto said moving parking stations has helped. When she had a station in a certain part of downtown, she had to fish a few scooters out of Bozeman Creek. Moving the parking station out of that area helped prevent that.

It has also helped that the scooters aren’t dockless, like more high-profile scooter companies like Lime or Bird. There are no charging stations for the scooters, but people still need to park them in designated areas. Blink then collects scooters with batteries that need charging and leaves out the rest, disabling them at midnight.

The designated parking areas don’t prevent people from parking them in the middle of the sidewalk, though, where they can get in the way of people with disabilities.

Kitto said if she sees a large cluster of scooters in one area, she’ll go and straighten them out. She’s also in contact with Downtown Bozeman, and she said they’ve called her twice to let her know scooters were blocking the sidewalk.

Though she’s received some criticism, Kitto said she’s also received a lot of positive feedback, and she’s happy with how things are going.

“I think initially there was a really loud voice because (people) expected it to end up like the cities they’ve been in,” she said. “But that’s not the case.”

Abby Lynes can be reached at alynes@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.

Support quality local journalism. Become a subscriber.

Subscribers get full, survey-free access to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle's award-winning coverage both on our website and in our e-edition, a digital replica of the print edition.