As many as 1,000 e-scooters hit the streets of Tallahassee

There are 21 places around the city where electric scooters – the next wave in transportation fads being taken for a test spin in Tallahassee – can now be rented.

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There are 21 places around the city where electric scooters — the newest trend in transportation to hit Tallahassee — now can be rented.

It’s part of a three-month pilot program to determine if the scooters are the right fit for the capital city and possibly lead to a long-term contract.

Up to 1,000 scooters from five different companies will be in operation throughout the city through Oct. 15, a chunk of time designed to coincide with the thousands of people in town each weekend during college football season and the return of throngs of students.
L-ES1 Sharing Electric Scooter (1)
The program begins today. Commissioners batted the idea around of allowing them in Tallahassee at several City Commission meetings while they waited on state regulatory language to pass.

State law affords e-scooters the same rights as bicyclists. They can be ridden on sidewalks and on city streets.

Officials landed on five rideshare companies to bring scooters to town: Bird, Gotcha, Lime, Spin and VeoRide.

Dockless electric scooters sit outside Kleman Plaza, one of 21 spots around town they will be stationed for the next three months during a pilot program. (Photo: Karl Etters/Tallahassee Democrat)

Paul White is the director of safety policy and advocacy at Bird. The company, among others, was a part of demonstrations in front of City Hall Monday.

The idea is to help develop good ridership habits at the outset of the pilot program. That includes yielding to pedestrians, not wearing headphones, avoiding drinking and riding scooters and the nuts and bolts of how to use one.

“It’s easier, more convenient and more efficient,” he said, noting how it offers an alternative to car use on short trips.

“People don’t want to burn a gallon of gas to get a gallon of milk. There’s a growing consensus that … the more we can get people out of their cars and into alternative modes of transport is a good thing.”

While scooters, which travel 15 mph, can be ridden all over the city, they are not allowed on the campuses of Florida State University, Florida A&M University or Tallahassee Community College, all of which opted to stay out of the pilot program.

In a first-of-its-kind study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating dockless scooters’ health and safety risks. USA TODAY

Sean Flood, an FSU graduate who started Gotcha in Tallahassee, said not having the campuses involved in the pilot would be challenging. The company is in use at more than 75 universities across the country.

“The hesitation is well founded in the bad players who have launched across the country,” Flood said. “We’re hoping they figure out that there is an orderly way to do this, that they want to see and then they’ll open up access in an appropriate way.”

Finding ways to introduce e-scooters into the community with enough support from staff to show safety and accessibility is the challenge. Flood thinks Tallahassee, with several recreational districts within just a few miles of each other, is a perfect community for scooter travel.L-ES1 Sharing Electric Scooter (6)

“We only focus on mid-sized municipal markets and universities. It’s a perfect world where those collide,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of folks interacting with downtown, Midtown and Tennessee Street. They’re using a car to move between those places several times a day. A lot of those trips are under two miles and you’ve got a lot of people using a car. That could happen on an e-bike or electric scooter.”

Each company has the ability to geofence the scooters out of restricted areas. Scooters can be rented through cellphone apps and have GPS systems on them for recovery and anti-theft purposes. They don’t have to be returned to their docks. Each morning, they will be returned to docks by vendors.

Cities across the country have been exploring the e-scooter phenom, approaching it as a way to travel short distances too far to comfortably walk and as a possible way to reduce the reliance on cars in the age of the smartphone.

White, with Bird, said there is a correlation between crashes and street infrastructure, when the scooters are being ridden and whether riders are adhering to the “street code” encouraged to keep everyone safe.

Florida State University graduate student Elijah Miller test drives an electric scooter outside City Hall Monday. Miller said after using them in other cities he was excited to see the rentable scooters in Tallahassee. (Photo: Karl Etters/Tallahassee Democrat)

Cities like Portland, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Tampa have all approved e-scooter pilot programs with mixed success. Hollywood, Florida, moved to ban them citing an uptick in emergency room visits as they flood sidewalks while other cities have struggled with parking enforcement.

The Centers for Disease Control recently released a study of e-scooter accidents in Austin, Texas, conducted from September to November. Investigators reviewed medical records and interviewed people who used EMS services in connection with e-scooter accidents.

The study found that wearing a helmet while riding an e-scooter significantly reduced injuries. It also found that half of the people interviewed for the study had severe injuries they believed were linked to riding surface conditions.

“This was the first study to look at the public health impact of rentable dockless electric scooters by speaking with people who were hurt while using them. We found that less than one percent of injured people were wearing a helmet when their injury occurred,” said Dr. Laurel Morano, one of the investigators for the CDC study. “Helmet use might also reduce the risk of head and brain injuries in the event of a dockless electric scooter crash.”

The Washington-based Micromobility Coalition responded saying there is an inherent risk of operating any vehicle on roadways or sidewalks.L-ES1 Sharing Electric Scooter (4)

Electric scooters have arrived in Tallahassee with 1,000 of them distributed throughout the city Monday as part of a three-month pilot program. (Photo: Karl Etters/Tallahassee Democrat)

“Like using a bike, motorcycle, or car, there is risk in operating a personal transportation vehicle. Car drivers face this risk every day — whether it is the risk of human error, collision with another commuter, or poor conditions on the roads,” said the coalition’s Executive Director Ryan McConaghy in a statement.

“To prevent these accidents from happening, industry and regulators continuously work together to create safety standards and build infrastructure that protects human life while supporting car use.”

A study by the National Association of City Transportation Officials released an April report that showed use of e-scooters has skyrocketed across the country. Within the 69 cities in North America, 38.5 million scooter trips were taken. Dockless bikes have all but disappeared.

Andy Prescott takes a break from his construction job downtown to test drive an electric scooter during the launch of a three-month pilot program. (Photo: Karl Etters/Tallahassee Democrat)

The city’s pilot with rentable bike company Pace has stalled after the company warehoused their inventory in preparation for Hurricane Michael in October and never put them back out.

The city has set up a webpage with common e-scooter questions at www.talgov.com/place/pln-scoot.aspx

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Post time: Jul-16-2019

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