Though miffed by the sudden arrival of EScooters in the city last October without prior notification, Decatur commissioners believe the technology is, according to City Manager Peggy Merriss, “consistent with the city’s strategic plan and community transportation plan.”
The scooters, also called “dockless mobility scooters,” “longboards” and “stand up electric scooters” (and less savory designations by those in opposition), are marketed as a convenient solution for short trips. Merriss believes there’s truth here and that potentially the scooters “can get people out of cars and contribute to better air quality.
“I don’t have an issue with them, if used appropriately,” she added. “They are not toys, and there has to be education, enforcement and role modeling.”
On Dec. 17 the commission authorized the city manager (Andrea Arnold will take over for Merriss beginning Jan. 1) to execute an interim operating agreement for using the scooters. This interim agreement has room for flexibility and probably will take another month to finalize. But the eventual goal, Merriss said, is to pass an ordinance by the first quarter of next year.
Some key points the in the interim manifesto include keeping the vehicles on bikes lanes, streets and bike paths while prohibiting their use on sidewalks. Also, the age limit is 18, helmets are mandatory and usage is limited to daylight hours (although this could expand). Each company is limited to 50 scooters within the city, and strict parking regulations apply—currently scooters are often parked in clumps on sidewalks, or occasionally singly and abandoned.
“There are some cities in the state that have banned them,” said Mayor Patti Garrett. “We don’t want to go that route. The big problems are irresponsible drivers, underage drivers, people riding double and, in one case, I heard somebody say, ‘I don’t know how to stop this thing!’ “
Merriss said she doesn’t have a precise number but guesses there are over 100 scattered throughout Decatur’s four square miles. Most belong to Bird Rides and few to LimeBike. On Wednesday a third company, the “JUMP by Uber” launched scooters in Atlanta.
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