The electric scooters are back, or will be soon.
Tuesday night the Greensboro City Council unanimously passed an ordinance clearing the way for electric scooters to return to the streets, but not the sidewalks.
On August 15 a bunch of Bird electric scooters appeared in Greensboro. With no regulations regarding the dockless electric scooters people flocked to ride them. During the three and a half months they were in operation Bird scooters racked up over 25,000 rides by almost 8,000 individual riders. A total of 36,247 miles were traveled on Bird scooters in Greensboro.
Some people complained about the scooters zipping in and out of traffic and flashing past pedestrians on the sidewalks mainly in the downtown area, but with no ordinance regulating scooters it didn’t seem like there was much city government could do.
It turns out there was and two weeks ago the city started picking up the Bird scooters and asked Bird to pickup the rest until they could be regulated. Bird complied with that request.
Tuesday night the City Council discussed the ordinance at length and discussed Bird including a marketing plan that appears to be based on the old adage it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.
In fact Servando Esparza the senior manager of government partnerships for Bird said that if the company had come first to ask for an ordinance regulating scooters that the city may have taken months to respond but when a city saw first hand how popular the electric scooters were, it was easier to negotiate regulations.
City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter took exception to that remark and said that Bird scooters had underestimated Greensboro.
Greensboro as was noted later was the first city in the country to enter into a dockless bicycle rental program with LimeBike.
City Councilmember Tammi Thurm said that the public had spoken in regard to the scooters and she supported them. She said, “At some point we have to ask people to be responsible for themselves.”
Councilmember Justin Outling who is usually the voice of reason on the City Council said, “The ordinance at hand is not about Bird but about a new form of transportation.”
Outling also took issue with the portion of the proposed regulations that prohibited riding electric scooters after 9 p.m. Outling said that the city didn’t have the same regulations regarding bicycles, electric bicycles or any other form of transportation and said it didn’t make sense. The City Council agreed and riding electric scooters will not be prohibited at night.
However, it is illegal to ride the scooters on the sidewalk or on a street where the speed limit is above 35 mph. Councilmember Yvonne Johnson voiced concern about this regulation as being too restrictive, but voted for the ordinance.
The ordinance sets up a permitting process with pages of regulations on the companies that operate the scooters. Companies will have to pay a $500 fee plus $50 per scooter. The company is responsible for moving scooters that are parked improperly such as blocking a sidewalk or a handicapped ramp.
The company also has to have $1 million of insurance per incident on the scooters. The regulations clarify that the city is not responsible for accidents involving scooters on city right of ways, just as the city is not responsible for accidents involving automobiles or bicycles.
Riders must be over 18 years old and are encouraged but not required to wear helmets.