Electric scooters are one step closer to hitting St. Pete streets after the St. Petersburg City Council voted to pass an ordinance to second reading that would regulate the scooters within city limits.
While dockless electric scooter share companies like Bird, Lime, Spin and Lyft have taken over cities across the country, from Denver to Minneapolis, Chicago and even across the bridge in Tampa, St. Petersburg has been slow to implement the “micromobility” trend. That may soon change, if the ordinance passes its second reading Oct. 17. City staff have indicated that the request for proposal for the electric scooter share companies to begin submitting bids to launch in St. Petersburg will be ready soon after the ordinance’s expected passage.
While the scooters may be hitting the streets, they won’t be hitting sidewalks. Use of the scooters on sidewalks or walkways in downtown, along Central Avenue and in any park is prohibited by the proposed ordinance. Scooters are only to be used in bike lanes or on streets with posted speed limits of 30 mph or below. The scooters will also not be allowed on the Pinellas Trail (due to Pinellas County regulations), or on the North Bay Trail from Demen’s Landing to Coffee Pot Park. As for the new Pier, the scooters will only be allowed in vehicular roadways, not sidewalks or trails.
Such regulations are not unique to St. Petersburg. Tampa does not allow e-scooters on Bayshore Boulevard or the Tampa Riverwalk. Thanks to geolocation technology, the city can create boundaries that power down the scooter, or only allow it to operate at a speed of 3 mph in prohibited areas.
The proposed ordinance also stipulates that riders must be at least 16 years old, only one rider can operate a scooter at a time and scooters can go no faster than 15 mph. To combat issues of sidewalk clutter and obstruction, the ordinance requires that riders park the scooter in a designated docking area, similar to those used by Suncoast Bike Share currently. According to city staff, improper parking could lead to user fines imposed through the scooter share company apps.
In her Community Voices piece from July, Council Member Gina Driscoll urged caution and addressed a number of concerns that she and the other members of the Housing, Land Use, and Transportation Committee had over the implementation of e-scooters in the city, including sidewalk clutter and inconvenience for businesses and pedestrians. Most of her proposals were included in the drafted ordinance.
Council Member Steve Kornell expressed his reservations around the safety of scooters riding in traffic alongside vehicles, stating that he believed the sidewalk prohibition could pose a danger to the scooter rider, more than an inconvenience to a pedestrian on a sidewalk.
“These scooters pose a really interesting solution to the first mile, last mile transit problem,” said City Council Member Darden Rice.
The second reading of the ordinance takes place Oct. 17. Stay tuned to the St. Pete Catalyst for updates.