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Grand Forks, N.D., Council Considers Shared Scooter Rules

Some members of the Grand Forks City Council are concerned about the challenges a shared electric scooters system in city limits could bring. Proponents have said scooters would give area students better mobility.

(TNS) — A possible electric scooter sharing system in Grand Forks will continue to be discussed, but some City Council members on Monday expressed concerns about the proposal.

Council members first heard about the possibility of the electric scooter system, by Birds Ride Inc., at the end of June. Since then, an ordinance relating to the use and operation of electric scooters in Grand Forks has been drafted. Council members received the first reading during Monday's meeting.

City Attorney Dan Gaustad said the drafted electric scooter ordinance is similar to the bike rideshare ordinance already in place and mirrors other cities' electric scooter ordinances.

Under Grand Forks City Code Chapter VIII, Article 18, all electric scooters used within city limits would need to have headlights, running lights, tail lights, brake lights, a bell, drum brake, regenerative brake and a kickstand. The person operating the scooter would have to be at least 18 and have a valid driver's license.

The scope of where people can drive scooters must be determined by the council. The drafted ordinance lists that electric scooters can't be driven through any park property, playgrounds, recreational areas, on the Greenway or on any flood levees or flood control works of the city.

Another aspect of the ordinance addresses the licensing and regulation of an electric scooter rental system. Within the drafted ordinance, any entity wanting to operate an electric scooter rental system in the city must obtain a permit to do so. The rental operator must deposit a certificate of insurance or other proof of insurance with the city auditor's office in the sum of at least $375,000 for injury or death to one person or $1 million for injury or death to more than one person, and $375,000 property damage for any one incident.

Though the ordinance would regulate who can operate an electric scooter and where it can be driven, the sharing system has raised concerns for some council members. For example: How well would the system be maintained?

Council member Bret Weber said he has experienced electric scooter sharing systems in other cities, where there is clutter from people leaving the scooters on sidewalks. Weber said having some form of penalty could help.

"They're a lot of fun to ride and they're a lot of trouble as well," Weber said.

Despite his concerns, Weber said the possibility of an electric scooter sharing system has been a top priority for UND's Student Senate. The system would mean students could have additional transportation in and around campus.

Council President Dana Sande said he doesn't want to disappoint the Student Senate, but he added that he doesn't see himself supporting the electric scooter sharing system.

A Grand Forks resident also shared his concerns about the scooter sharing, saying he has experienced similar systems. The negligence of people leaving the scooters outside of homes and of people operating the scooters while under the influence were among his top concerns.

"Just generally, my experience has been that (the) scooters are a net negative," he said.

A public hearing and second reading of the ordinance will be held Aug. 1.

In other related news Monday, council members:

  • Received a presentation of the mayor's 2023 budget
  • Prioritized investments within the 2023 budget include an increased focus on retention efforts for city jobs; adding six police officers, which would be partially covered by the Community Oriented Policing Services Grant if approved, and two 911 dispatchers; infrastructure improvements on the Waste Water Treatment Plant along with the street/wastewater Pump Station and railroad improvements; and cybersecurity upgrades. The total city budget for 2023 is $226.6 million. Council members will give preliminary approval of the 2023 budget on Aug. 1 and final approval on Sept. 19.
  • Approved a noise variance and proposed operations for the Downtown Development Association's Downtown Street Fair, set to be held Aug. 19-20. The event will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days. Vendors will include Bonzer's Sandwich Pub, Half Brothers, Joe Black's/ Red Pine Distillery and Rhombus Guys Brewing

©2022 the Grand Forks Herald, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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