Minneapolis is powering up for the arrival of rental electric scooters, which have caused clashes elsewhere between the upstart companies that run them and cities that are trying to regulate them. A handful of the scooters appeared overnight on downtown streets.
The scooters are left throughout cities, often on sidewalks, and are available to customers to unlock using an app on their smartphones. For a small fee, they can use the two-wheeled scooters then leave them anywhere in the city for the next person.
A Minneapolis City Council committee will vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would require companies to obtain a license to operate the scooters in the city.
Santa Monica, Calif.-based Bird Rides Inc. said it will soon launch a fleet in Minneapolis.
“Bird is a great solution for any city that has a vision of building a community with fewer cars, less traffic, and reduced carbon emissions,” the company said in a statement. “Bird looks forward to working with city and community leaders to complement their framework that supports Minneapolis’ environmentally friendly transportation solutions.”
The city’s Transportation & Public Works Committee will update its ordinance related to traffic, adding a chapter that will deal with “the operation and sharing of low power vehicles.”
“We are trying to balance the innovation and the new shared economy, different ways of moving around in the city,” said Kevin Reich, chairman of the committee. “We want to embrace that, but we also want to make sure that it doesn’t have the negative impact with getting into our right of away, creating pollution, other issues that could come up with not having a framework.”
The two biggest scooter operators are Bird and San Mateo, Calif.-based Lime. Through a mobile app, users pay a $1 initial fee to rent the dockless scooter and then 15 cents a minute for a ride.
Operators of the unconventional mode of transportation have clashed with regulators who are rushing to come up with rules for the new industry. In mid-June, Denver officials seized more than 250 scooters from city streets after the operators reportedly failed to comply with officials’ directive to remove them from public streets and sidewalks. And on Friday, the city of Milwaukee filed a lawsuit against Bird for operating unlicensed scooters.
Some of the concerns: Safety of the rider and the pedestrians on sidewalks and streets and scooters littering sidewalks.
Reich said the city is “getting ahead from [a] regulatory stand point” before electric rental scooters flood Minneapolis streets.
“This is very analogous to what we just passed for the dock-less bikeshare,” he said. “This is not anti-bike share, it’s not anti-shared scooters, actually very pro. If you have a good system, it’s good for all operators.”