They've been a boon to fans of alternative transportation but a pain for city officials charged with regulating them. But after today, August 6, Denver might be a step closer to figuring out those pesky scooters.
During a city council committee hearing, the Denver Department of Public Works officially asked council to continue allowing scooters in the city but to ban them from sidewalks. Council will consider the recommendation in the coming weeks.
“It would increase public safety on the sidewalks, particularly for people with disabilities, older people and children," Piep van Heuven, policy director at Bicycle Colorado, said at the committee hearing.
Scooter riders would be banned from sidewalks, except in locations where a sidewalk allows for bike use (though riders would be able to start their rides and disembark along sidewalks). Scooters are currently banned from the 16th Street Mall but allowed on bike lanes and roads where the speed limit is below thirty miles per hour. If neither of those two pathways is available, riders are allowed to operate scooters on sidewalks at a speed of 6 mph or less.
There may be a bit of learning curve for scooter riders if these proposed regulations come to fruition. Over the past year, Public Works staked out four locations across Denver and observed 1,560 scooter riders. The consensus? Riders have a strong affinity for sidewalks. For streets with a bike lane, 52 percent of riders stayed in the lane, while 44 percent rode on the sidewalk. For streets without bike lanes, 82 percent of riders stayed on the sidewalk, while 18 percent rode on the street.
If city council approves the changes, the Denver Police Department says it would focus on educating the public in the first few weeks following the rule change. Then police would begin enforcement.
"We will focus on areas where we receive the highest number of complaints," said Lieutenant Robert Rock at the hearing.
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With the proposed ordinance change, Public Works would continue to handle its own enforcement of scooter violations by reaching out to scooter operators and requiring them to move scooters that are obstructing either pedestrian or vehicle traffic. The proposal also would clarify that scooters can be parked along a road in a designated parking space, as long as the scooter doesn't "impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic." Scooters are currently allowed to park on the sidewalk, as long as they don't obstruct the flow of pedestrians.
Although Denver altered some scooter rules as recently as January, the state legislature passed a bill in May that defines an electric scooter and mandates that local governments can't regulate a scooter stricter than they would an electric bicycle.
In just over a year, scooters have become ubiquitous in places like Capitol Hill, RiNo and LoDo. Last August, the city launched a pilot program, allowing for up to five scooter operators, like Lyft and Lime, to disperse scooters across the city.
Over the past year, Public Works also surveyed close to 3,000 people to get their perspective on scooters. Not surprisingly, 96 percent of respondents who self-identify as riders have a positive impression of them. Of non-riders, 77 percent have a negative impression.