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Public-Use Scooters Might Come To Gainesville

An electric scooter shares space in a bicycle rack at UF Turlington Plaza on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. Currently, privately owned electric scooters travel city and campus streets. But the city and UF are considering public-use scooters. (WUFT News photo)

The city of Gainesville and the University of Florida have shown early interest in using e-scooter share programs, while other cities and college campuses work on problems that have arisen since the scooters appeared.

Jerry NeSmith, county commissioner and mayor pro tem of Athens-Clarke County, said he remembers when the electric Bird scooters landed in Athens-Clarke County. The University of Georgia banned the public-use scooters less than a week after they were seen on campus due to the high risk they posed, he said. The dockless scooters were thrown all over the streets and walkways. The county of Clarke-Athens banned them a few months later.

Gainesville city commissioner David Arreola said he welcomes anything that gets people to work and school more quickly.

“I’m in favor of strict regulations, and I don’t think they should be able to be left just anywhere,” said Arreola. “I think they should be picked up every night and put in certain staging locations, so that they do not become a nuisance because that is the number one problem we hear is that they kind of just get left everywhere.”

The average price per scooter rental is $1 for the initial rental and 15 cents for every minute of use.

If Bird, Lime or Razor USA LLC want their dockless scooters in Gainesville, the companies will need to apply for a permit with the city of Gainesville, according to the city’s memorandum of understanding agreement for dockless mobility. The permit would be effective for one year.

The memorandum permits a maximum of three dockless mobility companies to operate within the city at a time.

The memorandum also states, “Dockless units shall be allowed to operate between the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Operator shall be responsible for collecting and removing its fleet from the rights-of-way within 2 hours of disabling.” The operator is the scooter company.

The memorandum specifies a speed limit of less than 15 mph, and the city or UF can terminate the scooters with a written statement at any time. The memorandum requires the mobile application to inform the user of helmet laws. If the companies rent to users under 16, they must also provide or require the use of a helmet.

There is also a memorandum between the University of Florida Board of Trustees and city of Gainesville for dockless mobility with rules the scooter companies and the riders must follow.

Steve Orlando, the UF interim director of communications, said in an email, “The university is waiting for the city to adopt an ordinance that would allow Bird scooters to operate in the city. UF has signed the memorandum, but the city has not.”

Tallahassee-Leon County has extended its three-month e-scooter share program for another six months, according to the agenda for the Sept. 25 Tallahassee City Commission meeting. The commission allowed five e-scooter share vendors to apply for a three-month program starting in July and ending in October. The five companies that applied were Bird, Gotcha, Lime, Spin and VeoRide.

The University of Central Florida has already tested Lime public-share bikes. In an email, Rachel Williams, the media relations coordinator for UCF, said the university had a fleet of 600 Lime pedal bikes from August 2018 to June 2019 but nothing else is in the works.

“I would advise [the city of Gainesville] that they determine what the rules are, and can enforce those rules with the scooter companies,” said NeSmith. “And to be concerned about where they are allowed to park and how to control that. Also, how to make the scooter company and the riders accountable for illegal behavior.”

According to City Commissioner Helen Warren, more discussion is needed before a time frame can be set to bring the scooters in.

About Cassidy Smith

Cassidy Smith General Assignment Reporter WUFT News. Contact me through email at Cassidy14@ufl.edu.

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