Since last May, three companies have put about 900 electric scooters on Charlotte streets. In October 2018, users took more than 120,000 e-scooter rides. Now, city officials want to put regulations on the booming e-scooter industry.
Charlotte’s Mayor Pro-tem Julie Eiselt talked about the issue last week on WFAE’s Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Here’s a portion of their conversation:
Eiselt: We feel that it's imperative that we put some rules in place - the rules that we're proposing. There are other cities [doing this], Denver has almost the exact same game plan. So we're talking to other cities that have said that scooters are good.
We have found that people, the highest income users, are people earning $25,000 and below. So we know that it's an equitable option for transportation, but it shouldn't [be the only one]. It's an option. It's a tool. It's another choice. Pedestrians are also very important and they have rights too.
Collins: So what regulations are you looking at considering?
Eiselt: So we're considering capping the speed limit, the motorized speed limit, at 15 miles an hour. And I say motorized because [on] the e-bikes, you have to pedal to get the motor going, and you could go over 15 miles an hour if you're pedaling enough. But the motorized cap would be at 15 (mph).
Collins: Plus you wouldn't be on the sidewalk with a motorized bicycle would you?
Eiselt: Well in some places you can. We're talking about a quarter here in uptown that would not allow them on the sidewalk.
Collins: So when you say limiting the scooters to 15 miles per hour, that's a software adjustment in the scooter itself?
Collins: Because there's no speedometer on the thing, so [what] if you're if you're full-throttling and you don't know how fast you're going?
Eiselt: Somebody said that some of the scooters have speedometers. I've ridden Bird [scooters]. I haven't seen one.
Collins: You're also going to maybe require them to shut down operation at a certain time of day or night.
Collins: Because why? Because there are no lights on them?
Eiselt: If you're riding a scooter at two in the morning, you might probably be coming home from the bars. So, we want to make sure that people are safe. It's dark out and so the discussion is that they would be disabled at 9 p.m.
Collins: Have there been problems with riding these things in the dark after you're a little inebriated? Have there been problems with speed? Have people been hurt either riding the scooters or [have there been] car accidents or pedestrian accidents?
Eiselt: Yeah, there have been. I was actually in San Diego over Christmas and two people were killed in one night.
Collins: On scooters?
Eiselt: [Yes], 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Two separate incidents. They were both inebriated.
Collins: You're also considering getting them off the sidewalks, if I'm not mistaken. What do you think?
Eiselt: Well they'll be banned in high-pedestrian areas and the only one that've been identified are like College, Tryon, Stonewall to 7th Street. That's the proposal right now, with staff having the right to ban other high-pedestrian areas. But right now that can be on sidewalks.
Collins: And you mentioned that the primary ridership is people who make $25,000 a year or less?
Eiselt: That's the largest population of users, yeah, but they're all across the spectrum.
Eiselt: But that is a very high population of users.
Collins: Is that why you are also considering requiring scooter companies to place 20 percent of their inventory every morning at the beginning of the day in low-income neighborhoods?
Collins: So these actually become a transportation alternative for people who do not have access to cars?
Eiselt: That's right. Yeah, that's what we're finding is really popular.
Collins: Raleigh charges $300 per scooter to scooter companies.
Collins: We [Charlotte] don't charge anything.
Collins: Why, and how likely are we to begin charging these companies?
Eiselt: Well, I think what we're looking at is a dynamic pricing model. We are looking at a fee that actually could be reduced if the scooter company gets people to wear a helmet, gets them to park it in the right place. $300 concerns me because the state only allows cities to charge $30 per automobile, and that's a tax. And so it's conceivable that the state could say that's a tax. And so I think...
Collins: Well yeah, it is a tax.
Eiselt: Right. But we don't have the authority to charge that as a tax. So it's a fee. I think that if we charge something reasonable to offset the costs of running scooters on our public streets that the public pays for, then you know we probably have a better chance of keeping that.