No Pilot, No Play: Santa Fe Takes a Stand on E-Scooters

The popular on-demand transportation has caught many local governments off guard, but the New Mexico city is drawing a hard line, disallowing them altogether unless the council approves a two-year pilot.

by T. S. Last, Albuquerque Journal / April 17, 2019
Santa Fe, N.M. Shutterstock/Ulrike Stein

(TNS) — Two measures aimed at regulating electric scooter rentals in Santa Fe skated through the city council’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday with little discussion.

One is an ordinance that would make it illegal to operate rental electric scooters on public streets, sidewalks, parks and other public spaces unless the city council approves a two-year pilot program.

The other is a resolution that directs the city manager to determine whether shared electric scooters is something that would work in Santa Fe and, if so, make a recommendation to the city council within a year on whether a pilot program unique to Santa Fe was “appropriate.”

City Councilor Chris Rivera, who chairs the committee, said he had seen shared electric scooters on a trip to Denver to watch a Rockies baseball game.

“Looked pretty fun, but in some cases they were on the sidewalks, in the street, so I think we do need to regulate them a little bit before we even think about bringing them into the city. This is clearly different than Denver.”

The business concept of shared electric scooters has been gaining traction in some places around the country and other nations. Some cities have banned them as a nuisance or dangerous, while others are accepting them, with rules about where they can travel or be left for the next rider to pick up – for instance, at a spot that’s not blocking a sidewalk. Typically, an app is used by renters to find the scooters, pay a fee and say where the scooters have been left.

“Electric scooter companies have been providing on-demand rentable electric scooters that travel up to 15 mph in communities nationally and globally for approximately 2 years,” says the fiscal impact report for the resolution. “As a result of new technologies that allow for these services, municipalities have been weighing the costs and benefits of regulatory structures to help ensure public health, safety and welfare when electric scooters are provided.”

The report for the ordinance warns that, without one, the city would have no ability to prevent companies from renting electric scooters for use on city streets and parks, which would include the historic downtown Plaza.

Currently, there are no businesses renting electric scooters in Santa Fe.

Jesse Guillén, a legislative liaison for the city, said the two city proposals came in response to inquiries from companies to the city about setting up electric scooter rentals. He said the ordinance restricting the use of rented electric scooters would not apply to electric scooters owned by individuals.

Committee member Mike Mier said the city might want to consider adding language to include other transportation devices that a company could rent, like segways or skateboards. “If there’s money to be made, they’ll think of it,” he said.

Guillén said the sponsors of both bills, city councilors Signe Lindell and Carol Romero-Wirth, purposely geared the legislation toward shared electric scooters. The proposals will be considered by the Bicycle and Trails Advisory Committee today and are scheduled to go before the city council on May 8, when the public will have a chance to chime in.

©2019 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.