An ordinance that backers say will keep rogue scooter companies from operating on Lexington’s streets will take effect before July 1.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted 14-to-1 Thursday to approve the ordinance that requires electric scooter companies to be licensed, levies fines against companies that don’t comply and outlines where dockless electric scooters and bikes can be ridden.
The ordinance has been in the works for more than a year.
The city launched a pilot program in June 2018 with Spin to provide dockless bikes that can be rented and unlocked using a smart phone application. Electric scooters operate the same way. That pilot program, which restricts all shared-mobility vehicles to Spin, expires July 1.
The new ordinance would allow up to five companies to operate in Lexington. The companies will at first be limited to 400 total vehicles per company. Pedal bikes will not be counted in a company’s total cap. That change was made to encourage companies to provide pedal bikes, which are less popular and less profitable than electric scooters or electric bikes.
Spin, for example, has told Lexington it will remove its pedal bikes after July 1.
Shared-used companies will have to pay a $5,000 annual permit and pay a 25-cent-per-trip fee to the city. The companies will have to provide areas where scooters and bikes must be parked. Each company must also have a plan to redistribute bikes and scooters and must have a local manager.
Council members made tweaks to the proposal during a meeting in early June. Some of the tweaks include fining companies $500 if a scooter or bike is left in the public right of way for two hours and is not moved. The 25-cent-per-trip fee would also not apply to pedal bikes to encourage the companies to provide bikes. Instead of giving the University of Kentucky half of the fee as originally proposed, the city will split the fee with UK if the trip is on or around campus.
Many of the trips generated by Spin bikes are on and around UK’s campus. Splitting the per-trip fee with UK was done to help pay for UK’s administrative and enforcement costs, city officials have previously said.
The city of Lexington is negotiating with Lexpark, the parking authority, to enforce portions of the ordinance. Lexington Police can also enforce the ordinance.
Under the proposed ordinance, electric scooters could not operate on sidewalks. They can be used in bike lanes and on shared-use paths, the ordinance says. No company without a permit can operate in Lexington.
The speed limit for scooters is 15 miles per hour. Kentucky does not have a helmet law for motorcyclists or bicyclists. That means people aren’t required to use helmets on electric scooters.
The money generated from the licensing and per-trip-fee could be used on public awareness campaigns to encourage helmet use, city officials have said.
Still, a few council members were hesitant to pass the ordinance as other cities across the country have considered bans. The mayor of Nashville gave its nine scooter companies an ultimatum last month — either propose changes to the current city ordinance to make enforcement easier or he will ask the Nashville Metro Council to ban them outright. Mayor David Briley announced Friday he will ask the metro council to ban scooters temporarily. Scooter companies would eventually be allowed to bid on a scooter contract, Briley said. That would limit the number of companies operating in Nashville.
In addition to enforcement headaches, accidents on electric scooters have caused deaths in some cities, including one in Nashville in May.
Councilwoman Kathy Plomin was the only member of the council to vote against the ordinance on Thursday. Plomin has previously said she opposes electric scooters because of safety concerns.
Councilwoman Susan Lamb said she voted for the ordinance because she felt scooter companies could still come to Lexington without one. This ordinance allows the city some say over electric scooters, she said.
“I am still very concerned about it,” Lamb said.
Scott Thompson, a transportation planner with the Metropolitan Planning Organization, has previously said the city has had inquiries from several electric scooter companies and expects those companies to apply for a license.