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Miami Council Votes to Reinstate Scooters After Temporary Ban

After pulling shared e-scooters from Miami streets, the city commission decided during a special meeting to continue the pilot program through early next year, this time with more oversight and regulations.

Rental scooters lined up on a sidewalk in Miami, Fla.
Shutterstock/Francisco Blanco
After hastily removing e-scooters from Miami streets last month, the city commission returned the operations, this time with more oversight around hours of operation, speed limits and other safety measures.

The move highlights the often strained relations the new mobility devices have raised among scooter operators and city officials.

“I don’t want them in my district,” Commissioner Manolo Reyes said flatly during a special called meeting Nov. 29 to discuss the issue. “What they do is, mostly, clutter the sidewalks. They make the sidewalk very dangerous.”

The Commission voted 3-1 to reinstate the scooter pilot program until Jan. 5. Reyes was the lone vote against. Once the pilot program — started in 2018 — concludes, the city plans to adopt a permanent program, likely with more oversight and regulation in areas like fees and helmet requirements. Scooter operators Bird, Bolt, Helbiz, Lime, Lyft, Spin, and Wheels are currently permitted to operate in the city as part of the pilot program.

“The city is concurrently proceeding through an RFP process to select three vendors that would ultimately operate under a permanent program,” said John Heffernan, deputy director of the Miami Office of Communications.

Since the program launched three years ago it has been attractive to riders and has generated some $2.5 million in revenue for the city, he noted.

“However, challenges exist and have included underage riders, multiple riders on single-rider scooters and out-of-use scooters cluttering sidewalks and other public rights of way,” said Heffernan.

Safety and other measures put in place on scooters in other cities have been absent in Miami because, simply, “the government has not required them to do it,” said Alex Diaz de le Portilla, a member of the city Commission who pushed to have the devices removed in November.

“It’s been difficult for me, to find the balance between micromobility and safety,” said Portilla at the special meeting.

Stronger oversight over the program was generally expressed by residents speaking at the meeting.

“I think it is something that belongs in the city of Miami, but it needs to be looked at more carefully,” resident Grant Stern told commissioners.

Scooters emerged on the urban mobility scene in the United States about five years ago, drawing ire from city officials and residents who bristled at the sidewalk clutter they created, as well as unsafe conditions for riders and pedestrians. Since then, a number of cities have implemented considerable oversight in the form of regulations, data sharing and limits to the number of scooters permitted to operate.

For their part, scooter companies have introduced technology to limit speeds and locations like sidewalks, while also partnering with peripheral groups like public transit and ride-share to address last-mile gaps in mobility.

“There’s a place for scooters in Miami, there’s no doubt about that,” said Portilla. “But how we regulate it, how we protect other citizens and other residents, that’s important too.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.

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