It’s official: Columbia bans electric scooters for 1 year

Electric scooters, such as the popular Bird and Lime scooters that have made waves in cities across the United States, are banned from Columbia for one year.

City Council members sealed the temporary ban with a final vote Tuesday.

The ordinance establishing the temporary scooter ban, or moratorium, says its purpose is to allow Columbia officials time to “explore shared mobility options and offer opportunities for effective and meaningful collaboration with shared mobility vehicle providers.”

The ordinance calls the moratorium an “emergency” measure to protect “public peace, property, health and safety.”

The one-year ban will:

Prohibit 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.

Electric scooters have been received with mixed reviews in other cities. While they’re an affordable, environmentally friendly and fun form of transportation, they’ve also been called a nuisance and a public safety concern.

While nationally known scooter companies have not yet ventured into Columbia, a locally grown company, Zapp Rideshare, recently introduce two-wheeled electric scooters at docking stations at several privately owned locations near the University of South Carolina. Zapp has offered three-wheeled moped-style vehicles around campus since 2016.

The owner of Zapp, Frank Scozzafava, expressed deep concern at the city’s decision to ban electric scooters for a year.

Before City Council took its first of two votes on the ordinance earlier this month, Scozzafava emailed a statement to The State newspaper saying the city is “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” calling the ban “over-reactionary.”

“...(If) this ban passes, it will force Zapp to leave Columbia and relocate the vehicles to another college as we are rapidly expanding. It is a loss for students who rely on Zapps to get around, and several people will lose well-paying full-time jobs and their health insurance which is fully paid for by Zapp,” Scozzafava said. “They could have worked with us on a solution. I thought Columbia wanted to be a progressive and green city that supports small businesses and particularly ones founded in Columbia.”