Minneapolis Council to Vote on Allowing Return of Scooters

Minneapolis is expected to vote on a proposal that would allow two vendors to deploy scooters as soon as July 1, even as the issue over whether they will be required to have locking devices remains unsettled.

by Tim Harlow, Star Tribune / June 26, 2020
Shutterstock/ARTYOORAN

(TNS) — The Minneapolis City Council on Friday is expected to vote on a proposal that would allow two vendors to deploy scooters as soon as July 1, even as the issue over whether they will be required to have locking devices remains unsettled.

A council committee last week forwarded a proposal without recommendation to the full council, which will decide if the two companies — Bird and Lyft — can put out up to 2,500 scooters on the streets even though neither company has the locking devices, something an earlier proposal required but was amended earlier this month.

The revised proposal up for a vote Friday would grant Bird and Lift an unspecified grace period to equip their scooters with the locking devices, which allow them to be locked to bike racks or posts rather than left lying indiscriminately on sidewalks.

Minneapolis wanted the devices after it received 356 complaints last year about parked scooters blocking sidewalks and entrances to buildings. But it backed off requiring them from the start of the season, citing issues related to COVID-19.

That had at least one City Council member, Lisa Goodman, wondering why Bird and Lyft were chosen to provide the service this year even when two other vendors that were not selected have the devices.

Lime, one of the vendors not chosen, was also trying to address another top concern: riding safety. The San Francisco-based company has added sidewalk riding detection technology to its scooters. Minneapolis received 128 riding complaints last year, mostly from users riding on sidewalks.

Lime is currently testing sidewalk riding technology in Rochester, Minn., and planned to bring it to Minneapolis this summer. Sidewalk riding detection technology sends a message to users if more than 50% of their trip occurs on sidewalks. The technology is aimed at educating riders and dissuading them from riding on sidewalks.

That was one of the reasons Rochester went with Lime, said project manager Jaymi Wilson.

“The City of Rochester wants to do everything possible to offer this new mode of transportation while also keeping a keen eye on safety and addressing the concerns brought forward by community members,” Wilson said. “Increasing riders’ awareness of the rules always helps. If the technology is able to slow down people who are on the sidewalk, it will make any scooters that are on the sidewalk safer for the pedestrians around them.”

Lime and Spin both wrote letters to Minneapolis leaders encouraging them to stick with original plans to require locking devices from the start of the season.

“If there is a vendor in the queue that can do it, why would they not jump above the other two?” Goodman asked in a committee meeting last week. “Lock-to is the primary issue from the people I have heard from. You told the public we were going to have it, but then not really. This needs to be straightened out for me to feel comfortable.”

The amended proposal allows the city to add more vendors such as Lime and Spin if Bird or Lyft can’t supply enough scooters with the locking feature by a yet-to-be-determined date.

©2020 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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