Downtown South Bend, Ind., along with Indiana University South Bend Campus, is welcoming Lime Scooters, but only temporarily and with specific guidelines, as the city uses them as a pilot project to create city ordinances.
(TNS) — Lime has received city approval to launch electric scooters on a 45-day trial basis in downtown South Bend, Ind., and on the Indiana University South Bend campus, officials announced Thursday.
The University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College aren’t yet allowing the scooters on their campuses.
Under an agreement that the city’s Board of Public Works approved Thursday, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company Thursday released 250 scooters within the designated area and users will be asked to only ride them on designated bike lanes in the street, the "cycle track" downtown that is marked with bike logos, or on the trail that runs along the St. Joseph River. The city is asking people not to ride them on sidewalks and to wear helmets, said deputy public works director Jitin Kain. If the pilot project goes well, the city will enact regulations requiring Lime to pay the city money that would support police enforcement of such rules.
“Absolutely that is our intent to have an ordinance next year,” Kain said. “We’re doing this pilot and not charging Lime because it’s a very short-term pilot. This will give us some information as we start to develop an ordinance. We are following other communities.”
The development follows recent news that the city of Indianapolis saw 20 injuries of scooter riders during the month of September, according to the Indy Star. The Indianapolis city council in July passed an ordinance prohibiting the scooters on sidewalks, to protect people walking, and police are issuing tickets to violators. At the same time, some users there are afraid to ride them in streets because of vehicular traffic, the newspaper has reported.
To pay for that enforcement, Indianapolis is requiring Lime and competitor Bird to pay an upfront fee of $15,000, plus $1 per day, per device.
The city of Bloomington began allowing the scooters in September, but its city council hasn’t yet adopted an ordinance to regulate their use. Meanwhile, the Bloomington city administration on Oct. 26 issued guidelines aimed at preserving safety and aesthetics. There, they can be used on sidewalks, but only those that are “uncrowded” outside the city center. Helmet use is “strongly recommended.” Scooters can’t be parked in places that block the public right of way.
In South Bend during the pilot project, the scooters will cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute of riding.
In rolling out the scooters, Lime hopes to address a common criticism of its bike-sharing program — that the bikes are often left scattered around the city, creating an eyesore or blocking sidewalks. Scooter users will be required to take a picture of the scooter and upload it to the app, to verify that they've parked it properly. The company also has added three people to its five-member local staff, and staff will round up the scooters daily so that they can be recharged.
Lime staff started parking the scooters for public use around the downtown and IUSB campus after a 2 p.m. media release event outside the Century Center Thursday.
Kain, the city's deputy public works director, said any permanent city regulations likely would require users to wear helmets. Lime is giving away 25,000 bike helmets nationwide to people who read and sign a safety pledge on the app.
For the pilot project, the city has asked Lime to cap the scooters' speed at 13 mph, compared to 15 mph in the company's other markets.
Notre Dame has declined Lime's request to allow the pilot project on its campus, largely because it hasn't heard that students, faculty and staff are interested in scooters, said Carol Mullaney, director of the university's Office of Improvement. She said the university also wants to protect the safety of students who walk on the campus's many sidewalks, but she said administrators will be closely watching the city trial.
Mullaney declined to characterize the odds of the university ever allowing scooters.
"For now we have made the decision that we don't want to launch the e-scooters, but that's for now," she said. "With almost anything, as technologies and new products become available, as we assess the demand or interest in things, we'll constantly be open to that and learning from experiences. The decision is for now, I would say."
Ken Baierl, IUSB spokesman, said IUSB isn't worried that the scooters will be any more dangerous than bicycles but they won't be allowed on sidewalks. IUSB administrators ultimately are interested in the scooters as an environmentally sustainable way for students, faculty and staff to get to and from the campus, he said.
"They're not here for fun and games, scooting around campus," Baierl said. "This is a transportation option."
©2018 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.