In-Depth with Brad Byrd: E-scooter ordinance

Local

(WEHT) – Scooters that have enabled people to get around town no matter how big the city has been able to get people from point A to B. Some students on college campuses love them but some safety analysts say they can pose danger if not used properly and not regulated.

Here’s a transcription of an interview with Michelle Mercer:

BRAD BYRD: Joining me tonight is former Evansville City Council member Michelle Mercer. She championed and pushed an ordinance through that passed just last month before the previous council had. Michelle, thank you for joining us tonight.

MICHELE MERCER: Thank you for having me.

BRAD BYRD: This ordinance has soo many dynamic but here are three of the biggest highlights as you know. People have to be at least 16 years old and have an ID to prove so, but you don’t need a driver’s license. Helmets and cell phone usage will be allowed. But very important: they are prohibited to used on greenways.

MM: Greenways and any trails that are specifically for walking and bicyclists.

BB: Of course that includes sidewalk.

MM: Correct.

BB: Well that’s it with the safety issues, you’ve been in the medical profession and we’ve been sharing statistics. Tell me about your concerns, as far as safety is concerned.

MM: One concern would be that people not have earbuds in their ear when operating an E- scooter. They will be required to obey all traffic laws in city streets. They need to be able to hear traffic around them. They need to be able to hear emergency vehicles. We would encourage not using a cell phone while driving an e scooter and not using any earbuds just like in a vehicle.

BB: But the way this is set up is, let’s say an officer sees someone going down the road on an E-scooter with a cell-phone up to his or her ear. He’s just going to let them ride on.

MM: Yes, correct he can’t do anything about it. I did promote a safety amendment that did not pass. Cell phone use is not prohibited and use of earbuds is not prohibited.

BB: What concerns you as far as the way this is growing, you had a very interesting number you shared with me of the number of rides in Evansville.

MM: Yes the E-scooter rental company, their data showed they had 1,000 rides in a 2 month period and we expect it to grow in popularity by spring.

BB: And the scooters have to have proper lighting?

MM: Yes, the way the ordinance is written there has to be a headlight in the front of the e-scooter at the back of the e-scooter and it has to be visible for 500 feet.

BB: Okay, so that would be more powerful than a bicycle headlight then. One thing that strikes me is the technology involved in this. You can find these all over town. They are currently 50 in Evansville. In other cities, they are sprinkled all over the place, and you can just literally drop one down. Tell me when you drop one of these off you are not dropping them at a bicycle rack, you can just drop them off at the edge of the sidewalk, correct?

MM: Well the way that the ordinance is passed as written, they can’t just leave it in the middle of the sidewalk. They have to park it parallel to the street and approximately 48 inches from the curb. They cannot block business they cannot block handicap accessibility and they cannot block parking spaces.

BB: Say if I saw a scooter on Main Street a month ago and it was just lying there, you can be cited, but how does that work?

MM: The police have the authority to issue citations the way the ordinance is passed, just like you would get a parking ticket and pay it at the city clerk office. the police issue fines and citations. There is also a 1-800 number the way the ordinance is written any e-scooter company must provide an 1800 number that’s accessible 24/7 so that if there are issues or concerns they can call the e-scooter company or call the police.

BB: You’re leaving your fingerprint on the scooter if you just drop in the middle of the sidewalk or out too far in the road base don the credit card information you’re giving out.

MM: I believe they will be asked to take a picture of where they parked the e-scooter and send it to the e-scooter rental company.

BB: You got interested last year. This one company popped up and they every legal right to do so, and suddenly we had e-scooters in Evansville.

MM: Yes, the state legislature passed legislation that says cities may not prohibit e-scooters but they may regulate them, so when this e-scooter company came to the streets of Evansville there was no legislation in place and they did not have to get permission from anyone. There were no regulations. as a result of this legislation passing there will now be regulations.

BB: Do you see this growing in the next few years?

MM: I do, there have been inquiries .. I’m told there are other companies that may be interested in putting more e-scooters rentals. I do think it will grow in popularity. The one positive thing about it, it promotes connectivity and accessibility in our city one of the downsides, there are safety risks.

BB: Just like driving a car, truck or riding a bicycle. its fascinating the way technology works. Who would ever think that you could drop off a scooter anywhere in town, just leave it and someone picks it up and rides? Thanks a lot for joining us.

MM: Thank you for having me.

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(This story was originally published on January 6, 2020)

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