Transportation

Columbus, Ohio, Expands on Emergency Scooter Restrictions

A new law, set to take effect in 30 days, makes riding electric scooters on public sidewalks a ticketable offense.

by Rick Rouan, The Columbus Dispatch / September 25, 2018
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(TNS) — Lime and Bird users will have to scoot on the streets or risk getting a ticket in Columbus.

The Columbus City Council voted Monday to ban electric scooters from riding on sidewalks. Violating that law would be a minor misdemeanor once the city ordinance takes effect in 30 days, though safety officials have acknowledged that police will be lenient in enforcement.

Mayor Andrew J. Ginther's administration issued a temporary emergency order Sept. 11 to ban the scooters from sidewalks, but the council vote was needed to make it city law as part of a broader package of changes that treat the scooters like bicycles.

Columbus has had a seldom-enforced prohibition against adults riding bikes on sidewalks for years. The proposed change would add electric scooters to that section of city code.

Bird and Lime dropped their fleet of scooters on city sidewalks in July, and city officials have been wrestling with how to regulate them. Riders use a smartphone app to rent the scooters and are charged by the minute.

Councilman Emmanuel Remy said the regulations sought to "create a balance between innovation and safety."

Under the new law, scooters would have to be ridden on streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, bike lanes and shared-use paths. They cannot be parked on sidewalks in a way that interferes with pedestrians or on streets in a way that blocks traffic.

The new law also institutes a 20 mph speed limit on scooters, bans riding on the freeway, and requires that only one person ride them at a time and without earphones in both ears.

An amendment to the legislation added after a public hearing last week would require a rear light visible from up to 500 feet away on each scooter.

Ginther's administration also has issued regulations that require the companies to obtain city licenses, disclose real-time data, offer an option to rent scooters without a credit card and to distribute the scooters outside the central business district. The council does not need to vote on those regulations.

The administration plans to continue looking at changes to the law and return to council for adjustments, said Frank Williams, administrator for the Division of Infrastructure Management.

"This is a newer industry and we're reacting to as best we can. We don't feel we've established all the best practices yet because the industry has not been around very long," he said.

On other matters, the council approved a $1.6 million reimbursement agreement with OhioHealth to purchase steel for the Route 315 interchange project at North Broadway that the city agreed to complete in return for OhioHealth relocating its offices near there.

Anticipating a backlog from steel providers, the council went to bid itself for that steel earlier this year as it tried to ensure it received materials in time to meet the construction deadline. But the only bid response was for $2.4 million, 50 percent higher than the council authorized.

Steel providers told city officials that other companies did not respond to the bid request because of a requirement in the bid that they lock in prices for 180 days, said Kelly Scocco, deputy director of the city's Department of Public Service. OhioHealth did not have to adhere to that 180-day rule, Scocco said, and so it was able to get four bids for steel.

Instead of purchasing the steel itself, the city is reimbursing OhioHealth up to $1.6 million for the purchase from Wabash Steel Supply, she said.

Two companies also received tax incentives from the council:

  • Davenport Aviation will receive a five-year income-tax incentive worth $15,000 to $18,000 in exchange for retaining 17 jobs, creating 10 new full-time positions and investing about $840,000 on renovations at its 757 Adena Drive headquarters.
  • EX2 Investments, a real-estate holding company, and Carr Supply Co., an HVAC supply distributor, will receive a 10-year, 75 percent property tax abatement worth $561,460. Those companies plan to invest $2.7 million to expand a shared headquarters and distribution facility at 1415 Old Leonard Ave. The company will create 15 new full-time jobs and retain 122 full-time jobs. EX2, which is owned by brothers Roger and Greg Essig, will lease the property to Carr Supply, where Greg Essig is president.

©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.