Miami suspends scooter program as underage riders congregate Leave a comment

Miami is suspending its electric scooter pilot program after being inundated with complaints about clutter and youthful riders congregating downtown.

In a letter to the city’s five scooter providers Monday, Miami City Manager Arthur Noriega said the program would be suspended effective Dec. 30, until at least Jan. 15.

The scooters had returned in September after being banned in March amid the pandemic. Commissioner Ken Russell, whose District 2 hosts the scooter program, said it had become clear in recent weeks that the restart was not working.

“Whatever is supposed to be happening isn’t happening,” Russell said. “The clutter is greater, the underage riding is greater — and there’s been zero enforcement on the underage stuff.”

The program dictates a scooter company will be fined $100 for underage riding, and the user’s account revoked.

“The scooters make downtown Miami look like a slovenly teenager’s bedroom,” downtown resident Brian Gadinsky said in an email to the Miami Herald, adding, “It’s like someone should be saying, …’Hey downtown, clean up your room!’ ”

Scooters found downtown Nov. 26, 2020, by downtown resident Brian Gadinsky. Miami is suspending its scooter program effective Dec. 30 after complaints of clutter and underage riders. Brian Gadinsky

The Miami Parking Authority issued a statement that did not directly address what efforts it has made to enforce the program.

“As the city’s parking organization, the Miami Parking Authority’s function is to enforce the section of the ordinance pertaining to scooters illegally blocking ADA access or illegally parked in a safety zone,” said Authority CEO Alejandra “Alex” Argudin, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In a statement, scooter provider Spin said it had already made Bayside Marketplace a no-ride zone and Bayfront Park a no-park zone. It said it is also recommending the city place a strict cap on how many scooters each operator can deploy.

Lyft, another operator, released a statement saying it “remains committed to responsible deployment of scooters, regular sweeps to identify and correct improperly parked scooters in high-ridership areas, and scanning driver’s licenses to prevent underage rentals.”

Russell said he had initiated discussions Dec. 21 with the Parking Authority about enforcement issues, and subsequently asked the city manager to consider suspending the program in advance of New Year’s Eve events.

“We don’t want to see youth on the streets where someone could get hurt, especially on nights where people are drinking,” Russell said.

The restart dictated there would be 2,700 scooters deployed; it was not immediately clear whether that figure had increased since October. Russell said some companies were now lining up 40 to 50 scooters in one location in what appeared to be a marketing effort.

“It’s just irresponsible behavior — a company is trying to make a buck rather than improve their relationship with the city, or care about safety or aesthetics and making room for pedestrians.”

City officials will meet with scooter providers Jan. 4 to discuss a second restart. Russell said he would demand greater enforcement of underage riding, and that only a limited number of scooters be deposited in any one spot.

Coral Gables also restarted its scooter pilot this fall. A city representative was not immediately available.

Rob Wile covers business, tech, and the economy in South Florida. He is a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and Columbia University. He grew up in Chicago.

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