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Columbia might kick notorious electric scooters to the curb before they even arrive

Lime introduces electric scooters in Charlotte

Lime, which already offers dockless bikes in Charlotte, is rolling out electric scooters in the city on Tuesday, May 8. It will be Lime's third city for electric scooters on the East Coast, after Miami and Washington, D.C.
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Lime, which already offers dockless bikes in Charlotte, is rolling out electric scooters in the city on Tuesday, May 8. It will be Lime's third city for electric scooters on the East Coast, after Miami and Washington, D.C.

Electric scooters could be banned from Columbia for one year while city leaders make a plan to manage scooter businesses that have caused headaches in other cities across the nation in the past year.

On Tuesday, City Council will host a public hearing and take an initial vote on an ordinance that would enact a 365-day moratorium, or temporary ban, on two-wheeled, electric scooters on public property in the city.

Electric scooters, similar in style to the Razor scooters that were popular in the 2000s, have been received with heavily mixed reviews in other cities.

They’ve been hailed as affordable, environmentally friendly and, well, super fun. They’ve also been cited as a public safety concern for being ridden on roads and on pedestrian-heavy sidewalks and as a nuisance for being haphazardly dropped on sidewalks and in front of businesses.

Some scooter companies, including the two most recognizable national brands, Bird and Lime, have been criticized for setting up shop and dropping off scooters without warning or permission from city officials, including last summer in Charleston, the Post and Courier reported.

Now, those companies are holding off on business in some cities, including Chicago and Chattanooga, to await approval and regulation.

Some cities, including Charlotte, have embraced the scooter craze. The Queen City has about 800 scooters and a Shared Mobility Program that outlines rules for riders, such as where they can park the scooters, and for the business operators, such as the amount of insurance coverage they must have.

Columbia’s proposed one-year scooter moratorium would:

Ban two-wheeled, electric scooters from being placed or ridden on public property.

Allow the city to impound any offending scooter left unattended on a public street, sidewalk or right-of-way. Impounded vehicles could be “disposed” of if not claimed within 21 days.

Fine violators up to $500 per offending scooter.

The city’s draft ordinance says it is an “emergency” measure to protect “public peace, property, health, and safety.”

The draft ordinance also says city leaders will explore “opportunities for effective and meaningful collaboration with (electric scooter) providers” during the moratorium period.

City Council must take two votes to pass the ordinance. There will be a public hearing on the proposal before the first vote Tuesday night.

It was not immediately clear whether the temporary ban also would apply to a local company, Zapp RideShare, which already has introduced two-wheeled electric scooters at docking stations at several privately owned locations near the University of South Carolina campus.

The State has reached out to a city official for more clarity about the proposed scooter ordinance. This story may be updated.

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