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For better or worse, electric scooters have hit St. Petersburg

Jaymi Butler



St. Petersburg could eventually have about 1,500 scooters downtown. Photo credit: Bill DeYoung

At long last, electric scooters have arrived on the streets of St. Petersburg, bringing joy to some residents – and aggravation to others.

E-scooters have finally hit the streets of downtown St. Petersburg! Hop on a VeoRide or RazorShare scooter, abide by the rules (please!), and have a great time zipping around our beautiful city! ☀️

Posted by City of St. Petersburg, Florida on Friday, October 30, 2020

Late last week, 300 scooters provided by operators Razor and Veo were placed around downtown St. Pete as part of an 18-month pilot program which will give the city time
to measure ridership, performance and safety. Authorization for additional scooters will be issued based on demonstrated use and how well they’re following city regulations, and city officials anticipate a full launch would put up to 1,500 scooters on the streets.

Riders can opt for stand-up or seated models, paying $1 to unlock them via an app and between 33-37 cents per minute to ride. About 1,200 rides were completed over the weekend, according to Evan Mory, the city’s transportation and parking management director. 

The road to bring scooters to St. Pete has been a lengthy one. In October 2019, the city council approved a micromobility ordinance that included the regulation of electric scooters and scooter share operators. Two months later, the city issued a request for proposals from scooter operators. Eight proposals were submitted and evaluated, with Razor and Veo coming out on top.

Mayor Rick Kriseman said the city has been careful in its implementation of scooters in an attempt to avoid some of the issues that have befallen other cities.

“When it came to scooters, we saw things happening in other cities and we decided let’s take our time and really try to make sure we learn from the right things other cities have done and the wrong things they’ve done,” he said at the city’s recent scooter launch event.

That includes Tampa, which has had scooters since May 2019. While popular, the scooters have drawn their share of complaints, including that people are riding them in unauthorized areas – and nearly taking out pedestrians in their wake. Then there’s the issue of the scooters being haphazardly left everywhere.

The city has taken a number of measures to ensure those things don’t happen in St. Pete. For one, riders must return scooters to one of the designated corrals placed throughout downtown, and if they don’t, they’ll continue to be charged by the minute. Right now, there are 33 scooter corrals, and the city plans to create about 100 of them by repurposing unused space, using expanded bike share hub areas and converting parking spaces and loading zones. The operators will be assessed a one-time fee of $40,000 each to cover most of the cost of building the corrals, with a portion of that revenue going toward a university-based study of the program’s effectiveness.

While Mory said that while there’s no guarantee that everyone will return their scooters to the corral, he believes that the financial penalty of not doing so will provide a teachable moment. 

“It won’t prevent someone from parking on the sidewalk, but the technology won’t let them end their ride there,” he said, noting that based on feedback from council members and residents, nearly everyone is abiding by the rules. “They’ll learn a lesson and pay the fine or they’ll call customer service and plead for forgiveness.”

There are also plenty of stipulations on when and where you can – and can’t – ride a scooter, and the technology allows operators to enforce no-ride areas. Operating hours will be between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Scooters may only be used in bike lanes, or on streets with posted speed limits of 30 mph or below, and sidewalk riding is strictly prohibited, Mory said, adding that riders will be reminded of the rules each time they open the app to rent a scooter. 

The scooters will also not be allowed on the Pinellas Trail west of 34th street (due to Pinellas County regulations), or on the North Bay Trail from Demen’s Landing to Coffee Pot Park. At The Pier, they will only be allowed in vehicular roadways, not sidewalks or trails. Helmet use is encouraged but not required, and the scooters will max out at 15 mph. St. Petersburg Police will have the authority to conduct stops for people who are riding recklessly, Mory said. 

Reaction to the scooters has been mixed on social media.

City council will get a progress update on the scooters in early 2021. If all goes well once the pilot is complete, it could lead to three-year renewal terms to create a more permanent program.

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