Fayette County

Electric scooters caused headaches in Louisville. Is Lexington ready? Not yet.

The city of Lexington has put the issue of electric scooters into a Lexington council committee. Other cities have struggled with oversight of companies that run electric scooters.
The city of Lexington has put the issue of electric scooters into a Lexington council committee. Other cities have struggled with oversight of companies that run electric scooters.

A boom in rentable electric scooters has led many cities to ban the scooters outright after companies flooded streets and sidewalks without asking for permission.

Louisville was the most recent city to struggle with electric scooters after a company launched in Kentucky’s largest city without permission in late July. Electric scooters are dockless and users can use a phone app to rent and unlock them.

A proposal to put a moratorium on any electric scooters on Lexington city streets until April 2019 was put into a Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council committee Tuesday.

During a Tuesday council work session, Councilman Jake Gibbs tried to put the moratorium on the council’s agenda for its Thursday meeting in an effort to get ahead of a potential problem.

But the council ultimately voted that down, with many council members saying the moratorium needed to be vetted by a council committee. The moratorium would give Spin, the company which currently has a contract to rent dockless bicycles in Lexington, the right to exclusively operate electric scooters after April 2019.

The city would have time before April to set up parameters and restrictions on how they can be used.

“There is a company called Bird that has brought these into 45 cities in the last 30 days,” said Scott Thompson, the bicycle and pedestrian planner for the area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Thompson said the scooter company deliberately brings the scooters into cities that do not have policies or rules regarding electric scooters.

“The likelihood of that happening is very real,” Thompson said. “We will then have to react to these companies being on site.”

Some council members said they were uneasy giving Spin the exclusive rights to provide electric scooters. Spin officials told Thompson that it wanted to add electric scooters as part of the pilot bicycle program, which started June 25.

Councilwoman Angela Evans said she felt like the council was being “hood winked” because Spin’s agreement was to provide dockless bikes, which have a public health benefit.

The pilot project with Spin does not cost the city any money.

The city chose one provider for its dockless bike-share program to help limit the number of bikes on Lexington streets, city officials said. After the pilot program is complete, the city can and will look at opening the dockless bike business to other competitors. The same would be true for electric scooters, said Derek Paulsen, the city’s planning commissioner.

Frustrated by the number of electric scooters on their sidewalks and on public rights of ways, cities such as West Hollywood, Seattle, Saint Paul, Nashville, Boston and Miami have banned the personal transportation devices, reported Fox News.

Meanwhile, Portland and Denver have started pilot programs that have limited the number of electric scooters on streets.

Councilwoman Jennifer Mossotti, who chairs the council’s Planning and Public Safety Committee, said she hopes the electric scooter issue can be discussed at the committee’s meeting next month.

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