Rentable electric scooters could be coming to Lexington soon, city officials said.
Spin, which has a one-year exclusive contract to operate the city’s bike-share program, will add electric scooters sometime in 2019, said Scott Thompson, a planner with the area Metropolitan Planning Organization who was part of a committee that started the bike-share program. Pedal bikes will still be offered, he said.
Thompson told the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council Planning and Public Safety Committee that the city will alter its memorandum of understanding with Spin to allow for electric scooters. That revision will come before the council. If it passes, electric scooters could be on the streets this spring.
Cities across the country have struggled to regulate electric scooters after several companies indundated public streets and rights-of-way with them without seeking permission.
Thompson told the committee Tuesday that the city’s law department has said any company that launches an electric scooter program in the public rights-of-way in Lexington would have those scooters impounded because they do not have permission to operate.
Louisville was the most recent city to struggle with electric scooters after a company launched there without permission in late July.
Lexington used a pilot program to start its bike-share program, granting exclusive rights to Spin for one year. In its first month, Lexington riders took 7,500 trips on the bikes that are unlocked and rented using a smart phone application. Electric scooters are rented in the same way.
Less than a month after Spin launched, company officials wrote the city and said it wanted to add electric scooters as part of the pilot program. Thompson said its not clear how many electric scooters would be allowed, but it will likely be less than 500.
“It will likely not be all at once,” Thompson said. “It will be a gradual launch.”
Thompson said Spin data shows that electric scooters are used ten times as often as pedal bikes and other shared mobility devices.
Councilman Preston Worley said during Tuesday’s meeting he wants to see the bicycles stay and doesn’t want the company to offer electric scooters exclusively. Thompson said the contract will require Spin to keep a set number of bikes during the one-year pilot program.
Councilman Jake Gibbs had put the issue of electric scooters in the council committee after seeing other cities struggle with the issue.
“They are evading cities across the country,” Gibbs said.
Thompson said the city set up a pilot bike-share program to help gauge usage and other data so the council can decide public policy on the issue in July 2019. That same data will also be used to monitor the use of electric scooters.
Thompson said data shows that people are using the bikes to get to and from work, particularly outside the hours and routes of Lextran buses.
The University of Kentucky has also signed an exclusive contract with Spin. Thompson said they, too, are trying to determine if electric scooters will work on a campus that often has crowded sidewallks.
Frustrated by the number of electric scooters on their sidewalks, cities such as West Hollywood, Seattle, Saint Paul, Nashville, Boston and Miami have banned the personal transportation devices, Fox News has reported.
Meanwhile, Portland and Denver have started pilot programs that have limited the number of electric scooters on streets. Last week, a Miami city commissioner submitted legislation similar to Lexington’s proposed ordinance that would start a pilot program.