The St. Paul City Council on Wednesday afternoon approved a measure allowing two vendors to deploy electric scooters across the city.
With the measure passing unanimously, San Francisco-based Lime will be able to immediately place up to 500 of the bright green scooters around the city.
The scooters would be allowed through Nov. 30. The city also is negotiating a deal with Bird that would allow it to do the same, said Reuben Collins, a city transportation engineer.
“We are ready the second they pass it,” said Lime spokesman Lee Foley. But realistically, “it probably would be Thursday” before the scooters currently in a warehouse would appear.
The measure requires both companies to comply with strict cleaning protocols to address COVID-19. It requires that they “disinfect all surfaces using Tier 1 cleaners and associated products,” something Foley said will happen every time a scooter is brought in for maintenance or picked up by a team member and reallocated to another part of the city.
Contracts can be terminated if companies don’t comply or if scooters are found to be contributing to the spread of the virus, Collins said.
Scooters were used 338,000 times last year in St. Paul, but Collins is not sure what to expect in 2020. Activity downtown has been depressed due to the coronavirus, but he said “many people are looking for alternatives to public transportation.”
Vendors will be allowed to add “a couple hundred more” above their 500 scooter allotment if demand is high, Collins said.
Lime’s fleet of dockless scooters won’t have locking devices, something that is required for companies operating in Minneapolis. Lime was not selected as one of two vendors that will deploy scooters there. But its scooters will have technology that sets virtual boundaries around Como and Phalen parks that will cap speeds there at 10 mph as scooters mingle with pedestrians.
“We want to make scooters less attractive to use in congested park areas,” Collins said.
With the scooters’ return to St. Paul, public works spokeswoman Lisa Hiebert reminds users that riding on sidewalks “is absolutely against the rules.” Scooters can be driven on streets, in bike lanes, on bike trails and paths.
Parking is allowed only on city right of way, such as in areas between sidewalks and curbs, or on sidewalks immediately adjacent to the street where there are parking meters, newspaper racks or signs allowing parking.
Hiebert said the city didn’t receive many complaints about parked scooters blocking sidewalks or reckless riding last year.
The city saw scooters “providing more benefit than causing problems,” Collins said. “We are committed to keeping sidewalks clear and safe.”
This will be Lime’s second year operating in St. Paul. The company launched earlier this summer in Rochester.