Two months after electric scooters officially hit the streets of St. Petersburg, the initial reports are in.
The verdict? It’s been a smooth ride so far, aside from a few speed bumps.
“Things are not perfect, but they’re going well,” Evan Mory, the city’s transportation and parking management director, told the Catalyst in advance of an update on the scooter share program at Thursday’s city council meeting. “The only issues are where people aren’t following the rules, but the majority of them are.”
As of Dec. 31, 2020, there have been a total of 51,581 scooter rides taken by more than 28,000 riders. Of those rides, there have been two police reports filed – one where a scooter rider ran into a car and another involving a pedestrian accidentally stepping out in front of a scooter. The city has received roughly 20 complaints from community members, mainly about underage riders and people riding on the sidewalk.
“We’ve gotten fewer complaints than expected based on other cities with scooter programs,” Mory said. “Some of them have gotten constant complaints and we haven’t had that problem.”
Mory attributes the success of the initiative, which has put more than 600 Razor and Veo scooters on the roads of downtown St. Pete, to the strict rules the city put in place when approving the program. For example, riders must return scooters to one of the designated corrals placed throughout downtown, and if they don’t, they’ll continue to be charged by the minute. Right now, there are 90 scooter corrals, and the city plans to create about 100 of them by repurposing unused space, using expanded bike share hub areas and converting parking spaces and loading zones.
There are also strict rules on when, where and how fast you can ride a scooter, and the technology allows operators to enforce no-ride areas like The Pier and certain sections of the Pinellas and North Bay Trails. Operating hours are between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and the scooters are capped at a speed of 15 mph.
Additionally, scooters may only be used in bike lanes or on streets with posted speed limits of 30 mph or below. While sidewalk riding is strictly prohibited and riders are reminded of that each time they open the app to rent a scooter, the GPS technology can’t always tell when someone is in a bike lane versus on the sidewalk.
“The number one concern I have is the sidewalk riding,” said Mory, adding that he and his team will continue to work on ways to combat it such as placing “no scooter” decals on sidewalk ramps where sidewalk riding has been frequently observed “It’s not a technology solution, it’s a human behavior solution and sometimes it’s hard to control human behavior.”
However, the St. Petersburg Police can do it for them. They have the authority to conduct stops, and while no tickets have been written yet, they have given warnings to people riding recklessly. Veo and Razor also have the ability to turn people’s accounts off who are found to be in violation of policies – or even ban them – and the operators are currently in the process of putting larger identification numbers on the scooters so it’s easier for law enforcement officers and community members to report scofflaws. A cross-reference will occur periodically so that an account holder banned from one vendor will also be banned from the other.
But even with these restrictions, Mory said the scooter program has proven to be very popular and isn’t recommending the city make any changes to it at this point. Another evaluation will be done at the one-year mark that will help determine whether the scooter share program is here to stay, but Mory is optimistic.
“I would hope that the success of the first 60 days will continue and there will be an appetite for the city to keep the program,” he said.