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Electric Scooters May Hit Cleveland Streets This Summer

Legislation to bring back shared motorized scooters is on the fast track through Cleveland City Council.

Council’s Safety Committee held an emergency meeting Friday to review the proposal, which would create a one-year pilot program allowing electric scooters to follow the same laws as bicyclists.

It also would create a new revenue stream, charging vendors a $1-per-day per-scooter fee.

Scooter users in other cities typically pick them up anywhere and use a smart phone app to pay for a ride. The scooters not returned to a rack but instead left outside at the user’s destination.

If approved, the city could work with up to three vendors and allow up 1,500 scooters around downtown and other densely populated neighborhoods such as Ohio City.

Collected fees would go into a new transportation infrastructure fund.

“I just want to make clear the intent of the fee is to fund and to maintain new and existing multimodal infrastructure,” said Councilman Kerry McCormack, the lead sponsor of the ordinance.

“That is buffered bike lanes, which as a city we need to move closer to, signage and things like that.”

The funds should not be funneled into other infrastructure projects, such as sidewalk replacements, McCormack said.

Councilman Joseph Jones pointed out that there is no way for council to estimate how much money the fees would generate for the fund, but there could be costs to the city.

“What is not being talked about is traffic enforcement,” Jones said, saying the already over-taxed Cleveland Division of Police may have trouble regulating the scooters.

“We’re not enforcing the stuff in our streets right now,” Jones said.

Under the proposal, riders:

  • would be prohibited from using the scooters on the sidewalk in a business district.
  • could not travel more than 15 miles per hour.
  • could not leave scooters on a sidewalk in a way that interferes with pedestrian flow.
  • would have to park scooters in an upright position.

The emergency meeting to discuss the scooter situation was called because council will start its summer break after Monday's meeting, and Safety Committee Chair Matt Zone wants to move quickly and not let the matter linger until fall, especially with major summer events coming to downtown Cleveland.

“We also have the All-Star Game coming up, and we want to be viewed as a city that believes that all mobility users have a right to our public right of ways,” Zone said.

If the one-year pilot is approved, city leaders hope to learn more about who uses the scooters, where they are used and if the regulations work.

Last summer, California-based startup Bird dropped off 100 electric scooters on the streets of Cleveland. As in other cities, there was a near-immediate uproar from both pedestrians and motorists about the new mode of transportation.

Safety concerns were raised last summer after a 21-year old woman was struck by a car and killed while riding an electric scooter on East 9th St.. The driver of the vehicle later admitted to being under the influence of heroin at the time of the accident and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

The city demanded the scooters' removal, Bird complied, and officials promised to "engage in an open and competitive process” to select a scooter operator in the future.

Cleveland City Council is expected to vote on the scooter proposal Monday.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the victim in last summer's fatal accident was under the influence of alcohol. The driver of the car that struck her was under the influence at the time of the incident.

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