We tested rentable scooters for germs. Here's what we found

Posted at 3:15 PM, May 24, 2019

COLORADO — Riders on rentable scooters getting them from Point A to Point B around cities in America may not be thinking about something big: The germs.

When our reporters talked to folks riding on them, they guessed the handles could be pretty germ-ridden.

Our reporters looked at public bikes, too, and did some swab tests, which were taken to a lab. The goal was to find out what bacteria may be found on the scooters.

The team tested for stapholococous, E. coli, general bacteria levels, yeast and mold.

The results were surprising.

“My initial action was surprise,” said Microbiologist Helene Ver Ecke, of Metro State University. She knows all about bacteria.

"Some were a lot cleaner and some were a lot dirtier,” Ver Ecke said of the tests.

One group of scooters had:
• 700 bacteria colonies
• No E. coli or strep
• Lower levels of mold and yeast where present

Another group showed:
• 12,000 bacteria colonies (highest in all of our tests)
• Nothing else present

For perspective, a person’s hand, on average, has about 3,200 bacteria on it.

"So you are really the walking contaminant and that's why these scooters are being contaminated because people are gripping them with their hands and potentially sweating on them and just.. It's the humans that are dirty,” Ver Ecke said.

One group of public bikes showed 3,500 bacteria colonies but were the worst offenders of yeast and mold: 900 colonies.

The other tested positive for 5,500 bacteria colonies and had a middle-range number for yeast and mold.

"You have normal yeasts and molds on our hands we ingest yeast and mold, that's what makes us bread and beer and all kinds of things. So not all fungus are bad,” Ver Ecke said.

The tests make the germ issue seem pretty bad, but there is bacteria everywhere, and it’s not all bad, she said.

People were surprised there wasn’t more bacteria.

Ver Ecke said it’s because there isn’t food present, which would provide moisture for bacteria to feed on. The bacteria is probably going away pretty quickly, she said.

"The variation that we've seen may be indicative of how long a time period it was since the last person rode it,” Ver Ecke said.

Cleaning it off may be a waste of time, she said.

"You can't actually make it sterile. So that's kind of a futile goal."