While cities say they’re excited about new transportation options associated with so called “micro-mobility devices,” some are worried the state is trying to scoot by with yet another home rule exemption.
On a walk through Cascades Park in Tallahassee you’re likely to see people peddling by on matching white bikes with large front baskets. They’re call Pace bikes and are part of a bikeshare program in Tallahassee. Riders rent them through an app they can download on their smart phones.
“As a planner I’m always really excited when we can offer the potential for new transportation mobility options to our citizens and our visitors. So things like e-scooters and bikeshare are really exciting for me,” says Tallahassee-Leon County Transportation Planner Julie Christesen.
Officials say those programs help to address the first-mile, last-mile problem common in public transportation by helping riders get from wherever they are to nearest bus stop. Adding e-scooters to the city’s transportation options could be a help. But Christensen says current state law makes that tricky.
“Under current Florida regulations, these are state regulations, e-scooters are not permitted on roads or roadways. They’re also not permitted on bicycle lanes or paths. So at the moment in this city and in this state there are no places where e-scooters are allowable to be used except on private property. However, municipalities can enact an ordinance to allow these e-scooters on sidewalks, but we cannot enact an ordinance to allow them in bicycle lanes or on roadways,”Chistesen says.
But Rep. Jackie Toldeo (R-Tampa) is pushing for a change to that law. Under her bill….
“The operator of a motorized scooter or micromobility device has the rights and duties applicable to the rider of a bicycle concerning safety—such as a light for visibility, a helmet for personal protection and bike lane for use. These devices can go wherever a bike can go and must follow traffic signal laws. The devices cannot block pedestrian traffic and if a rider is under 16 years old they must use a helmet,” Toldeo says.
But Jeff Branch with the Florida league of Cities says the measure unfairly forces communities to open their doors for e-scooter companies whether the residents want them or not and he argues the bill doesn’t give local governments enough wiggle room for regulation.
“Why is the state trying to regulate scooters locally when there’s not an issue? There’s not widespread fraud or abuse. Its local governments trying to tell the industry—work with us we appreciate what you’re trying to do. First mile, last mile. But we have to protect our citizens. We have to figure out where scooters are allowed and not allowed. And in most cases, in some cases, they may not be treated the same as bicycles,” Branch says.
Branch says in some cities around the country, scooters are linked to a growing number of injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched on investigation on the issue in Austin, Texas. And in Tallahassee resident Ramona Abernathy Paine says that’s a concern she has as well. She says electric scoots can move pretty fast, but she wants the government to limit that.
“If I’m sharing a sidewalk with somebody on an electronic scooter. I want them to go no faster than I can walk to get out of the way. I would suggest 5 miles per hour. That’s still a pretty fast walking pace,” Abernathy paine says.
Toldeo’s bill has cleared its first committee. A similar measure in the Senate has not yet been heard.