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Edmond, Okla., Officials Agree to Scooter Trial Period

The city will be the third in the last year to welcome the on-demand transportation to local streets. Lime will likely dispatch its scooters sometime before the University of Central Oklahoma fall semester begins Aug. 20.

(TNS) — Since their arrival last August, the sight of people cruising through Downtown Oklahoma City and Norman on Lime scooters has become commonplace.

Now a third metro city plans to join in on the electric scooter craze.

The Edmond City Council on Monday unanimously approved a contract that permits scooter-sharing company Lime to operate within city limits over a one-year trial period.

Lime likely will dispatch its scooters sometime before the University of Central Oklahoma fall semester begins on Aug. 20, City of Edmond Spokesman Casey Moore said.

“They [Lime] feel like they’re a valuable piece of the overall alternate modes of transportation,” Moore said. “Not everyone wants to drive everywhere.”

With a maximum speed of 15 mph, the scooters cost $1 to unlock plus 15 cents per riding minute. Riders must have a valid driver’s license and agree to obey all local traffic laws.

Safety will be the first priority for Lime and city officials as the devices are implemented, Moore said. In heavy traffic areas, Lime plans to dispatch field representatives who will answer questions and instruct riders on proper use. Safety instructions also will be displayed in-app.

At the June 10 Edmond City Council meeting, council members said downtown businesses could reap benefits from scooter enthusiasts. The scooters also could help alleviate parking woes at UCO and bring students to new parts of the city, two student government representatives said at the meeting.

“If the scooters help with people enjoying downtown and different things and getting around in a way that’s easier, certainly we support that,” Moore said.

A draft ordinance regulating scooters has been introduced but not yet finalized. Proposed measures include imposing an annual share vehicle fee on each scooter and restricting where scooters can be parked.

Oklahoma City's experience

Without first contacting city officials, scooter-share company Bird dispatched 50 of its devices in downtown Oklahoma City early last August.

Lime arrived as a competitor four weeks later, placing scooters in Bricktown, Midtown and the Plaza District.

Weeks after the arrival of Bird, the Oklahoma City Council drafted an ordinance requiring scooter share companies to pay a licensing fee, implement geo-fence technology and limit the number of scooters they put out, based on demand. The ordinance went into effect in December.

While attempting to stop all instances of scooter misuse is an impossible task, Lime has been diligent in following the ordinance and communicating with city officials, Embark Transit Manager Jeanne Smith said.

“Unlike some of these other scooter companies, they actually asked for permission ahead of time,” Smith said. “And every time we approach with an issue or a problem, they’re very sincere in their efforts to try and get it handled.”

Saying they were “re-evaluating their business model,” Bird left Oklahoma City in February, leaving Lime as the only electric scooter company downtown. Lime now operates 350 scooters in Oklahoma City, Smith said, a number that has increased with rider demand.

Smith said complaints to her office about electric scooters have become infrequent, and those they receive often can be referred to Lime representatives.

The greatest challenge the city and Lime now faces, according to Smith, is keeping the devices out of off-limit areas.

All Lime scooters are equipped with a GPS tracker, which allows prospective riders to find the location of a scooter in an app and activate it. The tracker also enables Lime and city officials to see if a scooter has entered a restricted area.

If a rider enters restricted areas, like the Bricktown Canal or Myriad Gardens, the scooter slows down significantly and a text message is sent with instructions to turn around. If a person continually ignores the warnings, Lime has the ability to impose fines.

But these warnings don’t stop everyone.

“I often look at the map and shake my head thinking, ‘Why can’t people just behave?’” Smith said. “What’s interesting is the initial reaction from Lime was, ‘We can’t control where people go’. Now their reaction is 'we’re going to help direct where people go and make sure they stay within the requirements of the ordinance.'”

City vs. suburban streets

According to company policy, Lime scooters are not allowed on sidewalks, though the rule is often ignored.

In Downtown Oklahoma City — where pedestrian volume is high, speed limits are lower and drivers are generally more aware of non-vehicle traffic — allowing scooters on city streets makes sense, Smith said.

In suburban Edmond, electric scooters and city streets could prove to be a dangerous combination, she said.

“I’m not sure they’re going to be safe on the streets,” Smith said. “I’m not sure if they’re going to be safe at all in that environment.”

Although official boundaries have not yet been set, Moore said Lime plans to use geo-fencing technology to restrict their scooters to certain areas in Edmond, including downtown and the UCO campus.

Edmond city officials and Lime also hope to educate drivers on how to share the road with electric scooters, Moore said.

“Obviously those scooters can be on the road, and people need to learn how to pass them,” he said.

©2019 The Oklahoman. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.