Electric scooters in Raleigh can stay if they follow the city’s rules, even though the rules aren’t final yet.
City leaders considered several options Tuesday, including banning the scooters, but ultimately allowed them to remain.
A 22-page agreement outlines the proposed rules but City Council members suggested a number of changes and will review a final version, possibly in two weeks.
The electric scooters arrived in the downtown areas this summer, surprising city officials and residents alike. The City Council got its first official look at rules for them Tuesday afternoon.
The two scooter companies — Bird and Lime — will be allowed to continue operating under the new rules, once they’re approved, through July 31.
Tuesday’s decision is not just about a new mode of transportation, said City Manager Ruffin Hall.
“It reflects a little bit about what we want to see in terms of our community,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why we’ve provided a variety of options.”
Riders use an app to unlock the scooters for $1 and rides costs about 15 cents per minute. Bird and Lime both require riders to wear a helmet and ride in the street, not the sidewalk, but few do.
There have been 16 scooter-related accidents since they arrived this summer, and Wake EMS has been called about 20 times.
Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said the department has issued two citations including for driving while impaired. Scooters have also been used in at least one robbery and drug deal, she said.
“I don’t want to say ‘I told you so, but I told you so,” council member Dickie Thompson said. He originally wanted the scooters banned.
“This problem is out of control,” Thompson said. “You’re talking about more education? How much more education do you need when it says. ‘Don’t ride on the sidewalks’?”
Raleigh’s Proposed Rules
The draft proposal limited companies to 500 scooters with a total cap of 1,500 for the city. Bird has about 1,100 scooters now; Lime, about 300.
The scooters are picked up and charged each night, and the proposed rules outline when they could be picked up and returned to the street.
Parking scooters in areas without sidewalks or where sidewalks are less than five feet wide would be prohibited. They also couldn’t be parked next to public benches, trash containers, driveways, crosswalks or bus stops.
But Transportation Director Michael Moore clarified the scooters could be parked nearby. A line could be drawn on the sidewalk that says “scooter parking here.”
“People will do the right thing if shown how it works,” he said.
Riders would have to at least 18 years old and the scooters would be required to have “No Riding on Sidewalks” on a prominent part of the vehicle.
Council member Nicole Stewart expressed her frustration with a conversation that’s “focused on the negative aspects of scooters.” The city already allows vehicles like cars and bicycles that can result in injuries and death and require spending city resources, she said.
“Here we are saying ‘Where are we going to put these things?’ and I’m just really frustrated with where this conversation is going,” she said.
If the city and a scooter company both agree to the rules, how will those rules be enforced? Keeping people from riding on the sidewalks and using a helmet would fall on city staff including the police department.
Most of the enforcement would be in the downtown areas — the areas where the most scooters are located. But council member Kay Crowder asked why they weren’t getting more money from the scooter companies to offset those enforcement expenses.
“How much burden do we need to put on law enforcement to help the profitability of a company?” she asked.
Under the draft rules Raleigh would collect more than $100,000 if both Lime and Bird had the maximum number of scooters. The permit costs $290 but there’s a $100 fee per scooter.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane asked about raising the permit fee (not the fee per scooter) and referenced $150,000 per company. Increasing the permit price tag would be something staff would review.
The city considers the scooters closest to mopeds under state law, though the N.C. General Assembly may taken up the issue in early 2019. Mopeds require a motorcycle helmet, registration, a permit and license. They’re not allowed in bike lanes, even though that’s where riders are encouraged to go.
The Durham City Council unanimously approved rules regulating electric scooters Monday night and will begin accepting permit applications from companies in mid-November.
“Realistically, we won’t be seeing scooters until 2019,” Durham transportation planner Bryan Poole said.
Bird is ready to deploy at least 100 scooters in Durham as soon as the permitting process goes through.
It will cost $1,000 for a permit, then $500 to renew it next year. Companies must pay $100 per scooter on the street, with no cap set. If the city has to relocate a device, companies will be charged another $50 each time.