Rather than obeying the order to remove dockless scooters from public streets and sidewalks, two companies are hoping the city will come around.
(TNS) — Two companies this week still were ignoring Denver’s order to remove their dockless electric scooters from public streets and sidewalks, four days after the city spoke up.
Instead, as Lime and Bird still displayed dozens and dozens of available scooters on their mobile apps Tuesday afternoon, they said only that they looked forward to working with the city’s Department of Public Works on rules that could legalize the zippy transports.
That probably will take “at least several weeks,” DPW spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn said, and possibly longer, given the complexity of regulating a new industry.
“We want to ensure any rules we enact are broad enough to cover both anticipated and unanticipated new mobility options,” Kuhn said. “I think we are probably looking at later this summer” for permanent regulations or an ordinance change.
One possibility is to create emergency regulations that would apply for up to six months.
Judging by scooter companies’ purposely disruptive playbook as they’ve rolled out dockless scooters in other cities, their experience in Denver — including the apparent disregard of a city removal order — is more or less going according to plan, by forcing the city’s hand while at the same time attracting users.
A statement from Lime’s spokeswoman said the company wanted to help Denver overcome “the initial community learning curves of a new form of transportation.” It cited user data showing that in the first six days after its May 25 launch in Denver, more than 7,000 people rented scooters, taking upward of 16,000 trips and traversing 22,000 miles across the city.
“We reached out to DPW upon the notification of confiscation of our scooters to better understand the reasoning behind taking them off the streets and whether there were other ways for the city and our team to effectively and efficiently partner on next steps,” Lime’s Mary Caroline Pruitt wrote in an email.
So far, users have been delighted by the scooters, which cost $1 to unlock and then 15 cents a minute for a ride. The scooters go as fast as 15 mph.
But they’ve also prompted plenty of grumbles — some scooters have been left blocking sidewalks or garages in alleys — and even aggression. One Denver Post reader reported that he spotted at least five scooters inside a dumpster off the 16th Street Mall last week.
Denver Public Works said late Friday that its removal order was “immediate,” and it could issue citations and fines if officials decide to crack down on the companies. So far, Kuhn said, DPW workers have been seizing scooters on a case-by-case basis when they see them unattended in public areas.
With big investor backing, the tech companies began breaking into cities in California earlier this year — often sparking resistance, since city ordinances typically weren’t written with the intent of allowing shareable devices that can be left pretty much anywhere.
That’s the case in Denver, which doesn’t allow the storage of goods or privately owned equipment on public streets, alleys, sidewalks, parkways and other public places.
But some urban advocates have argued that dockless scooters and bike-share systems offer opportunities to bridge transportation gaps and connect to transit, if only cities embrace them and make room for them. Austin, Texas, last month unveiled an extensive list of emergency rules, prompting mixed reaction from the companies.
Los Angeles is working out a test program, as is San Francisco. The latter’s pilot-permit program will allow up to 1,250 scooters in the first six months. Planned requirements for the companies include keeping scooters from blocking sidewalks, providing insurance and protecting renters’ information.
Before they could apply, three companies operating in that city since March had to pull all their scooters from public property — and they did so by Monday’s deadline, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Denver officials were on notice in recent weeks that the company behind LimeBike — which has a popular dockless bike-share program in Aurora — was interested in unleashing its scooters in Denver. But the company still caught city officials off guard when it launched in late May.
Bird followed suit Friday, rolling out a fleet that looks to be even larger. Later that day, DPW put its departmental foot down — or tried to, at least.
Neither Lime nor Bird this week would directly address whether it planned to remove its scooters.
“We have received the Department of Public Works’ notice and look forward to working with the city of Denver so that Bird can continue to provide our convenient, affordable transportation solution that gets cars off of the road and reduces carbon emissions,” said Bird spokesman Kenneth Baer.
Denver city officials in coming weeks and months will sort out whether and how the companies can operate legally, but they’ll also consider questions about where users can ride the scooters.
As DPW’s statement pointed out last week, city rules bar the electric scooters from being used on streets (except to cross at intersections), in bike lanes, on city trails and in parks — all common places where riders have been seen zipping by in recent weeks.
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