E-Scooter Companies Work to Revise Rules Amid Complaints

The Tucson, Ariz., City Council plans to continue its ongoing six-month e-scooter pilot program despite complaints from local neighborhoods about unsafe and improper use of the electric scooters.

by Jasmine Demers, Arizona Daily Star / January 9, 2020
Shutterstock/LCV

(TNS) — The Tucson, Ariz., City Council will continue its six-month e-scooter pilot program despite complaints from local neighborhoods about unsafe and improper use of the electric scooters.

Following a City Council meeting last month, scooter companies Razor and Bird were asked to work with the Tucson Department of Transportation to develop plans that would help solve issues reported by neighborhoods. The plans were presented at the council meeting Tuesday.

According to Councilman Steve Kozachik, who represents Ward 6, the North Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, the Historic Fourth Avenue Coalition, the Iron Horse Neighborhood and West University Neighborhood associations are calling for an end to the e-scooter program.

“These are the people who live with the impacts of this pilot program every day. They are saying, and I’m joining them in saying, enough is enough,” Kozachik said at the Dec. 3 meeting.

The neighborhood groups reported unsafe and improper use of scooters in their areas, including people riding them on sidewalks, riding without helmets, riding against traffic and blocking sidewalks and pedestrian paths.

Each company has about 400 scooters deployed in Tucson.

Kozachik made a motion to end the pilot program at the December meeting, but it was not supported by other council members.

The scooter companies were instead given 30 days to come up with a plan to help with enforcement, parking issues and education.

“Let’s not all of a sudden cut a program that has opened a door for people to get around. There’s still stuff that we can do,” said Councilman Paul Cunningham.

Since the pilot program launched in September, Tucson riders have taken more than 120,000 rides — 56,000 rides with Bird and 66,000 with Razor.

In the new plans, both Bird and Razor have committed to several program changes they say will help fit Tucson’s needs.

“I personally want to ensure that this program is successful in the city of Tucson,” said Mayor Regina Romero. “It is a microtransit option for many people to connect with their destination.

“If successful, we will have an additional transit option for the residents of Tucson. I think it is in the best interest of the companies, of the city of Tucson and of the residents and transit users of our community to find solutions for the issues that we’ve found so far.”

Enforcement and parking

Last month, staff members from Bird, Razor, the Tucson Department of Transportation, the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association and the Ward 6 Council Office met on North Fourth Avenue to identify preferred e-scooter parking areas that would not interfere with on-street parking. The 24 scooter parking zones will be marked and are expected to be ready by mid-January.

Both scooter companies will also offer incentives in the form of discounts for using the preferred parking zones. There will also be messaging to riders’ phones that details the fines associated with improper riding and parking behavior. For repeat offenses, riders will have their e-scooter accounts suspended or terminated by the companies.

To help enforce the parking rules, Razor will introduce technology that will require users to take a photo of the parked scooter before ending the ride. Bird already requires end-of-trip photos.

Special event coordination

To address complaints from neighborhoods regarding e-scooters and special events, Bird and Razor implemented “no park and no ride” zones, using a technology called geofencing, during the Fourth Avenue Street Fair held Dec. 12-16. Scooters that entered the closed area were remotely powered off and riders were required to leave the area before being allowed to end the ride. A similar geofencing plan was used during last year’s Winterhaven Festival of Lights.

According to the council, Bird and Razor will continue to work with event organizers to implement these temporary restrictions as needed.

Helmet safety

Bird has already implemented a “helmet selfie” incentive in which riders are encouraged to take a photo of themselves wearing their helmets at the end of each ride and are given ride credits in exchange. Razor has expressed its intent to implement a similar program.

Both companies will continue to provide free helmets to users upon request. Helmets can also be picked up at the Mayor’s Office and all six ward offices.

Education and accessibility

Diana Alarcon, Tucson director of transportation, said Bird and Razor have increased efforts to educate riders on proper scooter use by creating additional phone messaging, social media campaigns, local events and partnerships with organizations.

Both companies are also working with the University of Arizona to increase educational messages.

While the UA has prohibited the use of e-scooters on campus, Bird and Razor are hoping to conduct safety tutorials, provide handouts and distribute free helmets.

Also, the companies have committed to low-income access programs, which include discount programs for qualifying individuals, cash payment options and text-to-ride programs for users without smartphones.

Pilot program continues

In March, the transportation department will conduct an evaluation of the six-month pilot program and present it to the council. The council will then decide whether e-scooters will remain in Tucson.

Kozachik said the e-scooter program is not working for the city.

“We’re still seeing double riding. We’re still seeing sidewalk riding. We’re still seeing them dumped on the sidewalks and in ADA areas. We’re still seeing people riding drunk. One hundred percent of the enforcement burden continues to fall on business owners and residents,” Kozachik said.

Council members said how well the two companies implement their updated plans will have a large impact on how the council decides to proceed in March.

“There’s still some changes and tweaks that we’re probably going to have to make, but I do want to say that both Bird and Razor have been pretty responsive,” said Cunningham.

“I’m not saying this is perfect and I’m not saying that we’ll keep them, but I think right now, with the work that Bird and Razor has done, we should allow this pilot to continue until March for sure.”

©2020 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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