City begins look at whether scooter ban should be lifted

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Because of an ordinance designed to keep skateboards out of its central business district, Greenville has been left out of the latest personal transportation craze to sweep through downtowns across the country — electric scooters.

But that could change.

The Greenville City Council is beginning to look at whether the ordinance should be revised.

Two companies have already approached the city about putting the ride-sharing devices downtown, assistant city attorney Bob Coler told members of the Greenville City Council Committee on Public Safety and General Government. Razor USA did not pursue it after being told about the ordinance. Bird, a Santa Monica, California-based company, applied for a business license but the city put it on hold pending more information, Coler said. Bird has scooters in more than 100 cities, including Charlotte, Atlanta, and Raleigh, applied for a business license.

Greenville’s ordinance prohibits roller skates, in-line skates, skateboards, coasters, or similar devices from operating on streets with speed limits of 30 mph or higher, city-owned or leased parking garages and surface lots, or any sidewalks or streets in downtown. Segways are allowed because of a state law that gives them the same rights as a pedestrian, Coler said.

Some scooter companies allow cities to limit hours and location of operation, said Edward Kinney, Greenville’s senior landscape architect who oversees the city’s Bikeville program. For instance, Charleston-based Gotcha uses a “geo fence” to limit app access and scooter speed outside of approved zones, and users can be assessed additional fees, he said.

Some companies share revenue or allow cities to impose a per-trip fee that could be used for transit-oriented infrastructure costs.

Julie Horton, Greenville’s governmental relations manager, told the council committee that the city continues to be approached about electric scooters. She said that while city staff presented committee members with “Scooter 101,” it was not making a recommendation on whether the ordinance should be changed.

Cities nationwide have been grappling with how to regulate the scooters.

In North Carolina, the city of Charlotte’s Department of Transportation unveiled a draft of its e-scooter plan last week.

According to the plan, nearly 440,000 trips have been taken on electric scooters since they arrived in Charlotte in May as part of a shared mobility pilot program. Riders have traveled more than 1.5 million miles.

Charlotte’s plan allows riders to use e-scooters on sidewalks except in the congested business district. Users would be required to park e-scooters upright and within eligible parking areas. Users would be prohibited from parking e-scooters in any manner that blocks the sidewalk or reduces its width to less than 6 feet.

Some cities, including St. Louis, are trying to use e-scooters as a channel of transportation for underserved communities. But it hasn’t been as successful as hoped because users must have a credit card, said Anna Catherine Thornley, the city’s downtown project manager.

E-scooters – Yes or no?

Electric scooters are currently outlawed in downtown Greenville and on any city streets with speed limits of 30 mph or higher. But city officials are looking at whether that should change.

Pros

Allow riders to travel to areas that are too far to walk without having to use their cars.

Decrease fossil fuel emissions.

Offer an alternative to women, who studies say prefer scooters over bike sharing because they are easier to ride in skirts and heels.

Provide a “last mile” transportation option that Greenville doesn’t have.

Would allow hospitality workers the option to park at larger, less expensive parking areas and ride into work.

Reach speeds high enough to make travel quick and efficient, without slowing down normal vehicular speeds.

Have less expensive travel costs than most other travel options.

Cons

Not all city streets have bicycle lanes for scooters to use.

It’s more difficult for car drivers to see scooter riders than bicyclists in traffic.

Scooters in other cities have been vandalized. There are concerns scooters could be thrown off the Liberty Bridge and end up in the Reedy River.

Some Greenville residents don’t have smartphones and could not activate a scooter.

Uneven pavement, potholes, and loose gravel could create a safety concern for riders.

Scooters could clutter sidewalks and ramps and create ADA accessibility issues.

In other cities, scooter riders have hit pedestrians.

(Source: City of Greenville)

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