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Community Voices: E-Scooters are coming to St. Pete, let’s get it right

Gina Driscoll

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Photo courtesy of the City of Tampa Facebook Page.

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Electric scooters are the hot transportation topic of the summer. From Denver to Minneapolis to Nashville and just across the bay in Tampa, scooters are everywhere. Simply download an app, attach a payment method, and users are off to the races. This incredibly popular transit alternative will soon be coming to St. Petersburg, too. But City Council member Gina Driscoll urges caution.

The City of St. Petersburg is in the process of developing an ordinance to allow electric scooter share businesses to operate in our city.

St. Petersburg’s population is growing by leaps and bounds, and our reputation as a premier tourist destination is stronger than ever. This success brings increasing challenges with traffic and parking that we must address. Creative solutions such as e-scooter share are worth considering, but we must move forward cautiously to avoid the pitfalls that other cities have experienced.

Cities across the country are integrating e-scooter share programs into their transportation offerings, often with mixed results. The advantages of e-scooters are attractive: they are a convenient, relatively inexpensive and fun way to travel short distances without a car. For many cities, though, this has come at a price, with many reports of injuries or death from e-scooter accidents, and unsightly clutter from e-scooters discarded everywhere.

How can St. Pete do it better? 

Members of the St. Petersburg City Council’s Housing, Land Use and Transportation Committee recently met to discuss regulations on scooter share programs, to craft an ordinance that will be presented to the full City Council for a vote in the coming weeks. As a member of this committee and the City Council Member for District 6, the area that includes downtown where e-scooter operations would be concentrated, I echoed the concerns of many of my constituents regarding safety and clutter.

The committee reviewed the pros and cons gleaned from the experiences of other cities, and we determined the requirements that would be included in the ordinance, the request for proposals, and the operator agreements. Here are some of the primary requirements that will be considered and voted on by City Council:

  • Areas of use: Allowed only on bike lanes and streets where the speed limit is 30 mph or less; sidewalk use will be prohibited (complete loss of power if placed on a sidewalk); use on the Waterfront Trail will be prohibited (speed will automatically slow to 3 mph on this trail).
  • Parking: Must be parked upright and within designated corrals, similar to our current bike share docking stations. 
  • Nuisance issues will be addressed by the vendor within 30 minutes of notification. Penalties for non-compliance will be issued to the vendor and the user.
  • Hours of operation: 6 a.m.-10 p.m., with one hour allowed for use before and after. 
  • Program launch: Pilot program will be one year and include one to three vendors. 

The requirements we have developed have addressed most of the concerns I have had regarding e-scooter share in St. Pete. I have asked that we begin on a small scale, with one vendor and the minimum number of devices necessary to create an operable network. Once we’ve mastered the concept on that scale, we can add to the network incrementally and address any challenges along the way. I believe that if we move forward slowly and cautiously, with safety at top of mind, we can boast of a successful program that offers a new way to move around our extraordinary city. 

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