Scooter riding has become quite popular in Minneapolis, with people using the electric-powered two-wheelers to take 40,000 to 50,000 trips a week.
A large majority of riders have been law-abiding, but new signs have popped up in recent weeks along Hennepin Avenue, Nicollet Mall and on streets in the Uptown area as the city tries to curb some bad behavior.
“No Scooter Riding on Sidewalks,” the red-and-white signs read.
Josh Johnson, the city’s advanced mobility manager, said there have not been any reports of pedestrians being hit on sidewalks this year, but one scooter rider crashed into a fire hydrant. But there have been a number of complaints phoned into 311 from pedestrians asking the city do something about the problem after apparently being buzzed by scooter riders.
For the record, it is legal to ride scooters in the street and in bike lanes. It is not OK to ride on sidewalks.
City staff recently conducted field observations and found that 30% of riders don’t follow the rules.
Some may be willfully flouting the law; others may be unaware of where they can and can’t ride, Johnson said.
“A lot of people just don’t know,” Johnson said. Regardless, “We have to work to get that number down,” Johnson said.
Staff have been educating users on proper riding etiquette in one-on-one encounters and at events such as Sunday’s Open Streets Northeast.
To tackle another source of pedestrians’ frustration — scooters left indiscriminately parked, blocking bus stops and building entrances and impeding walking and wheelchair mobility — the city is establishing on-street scooter parking zones similar to those dedicated for Nice Ride bikes. One is painted on the pavement at 6th Street and Nicollet Mall. They are meant to provide a place “to park in an organized and orderly fashion,” Johnson said.
Eight have already been painted on downtown streets and another nine are coming soon. In all, the city expects to establish 30 parking zones citywide, Johnson said.
From 4 lanes to 3
Last year, Ramsey County converted a segment of Maryland Avenue in St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood from four through lanes — two in each direction — to a road with one through lane in each direction with a center turn lane serving both eastbound and westbound drivers.
The result of what traffic planners call a 4-to-3 lane conversion was successful in that it slowed traffic and reduced injury crashes.
The county also put in center refuge islands and marked crosswalks to improve pedestrian safety between Payne Avenue and Johnson Parkway.
Now the county is going to run a trial to see if a similar configuration will work between Arkwright Street and Payne Avenue.
Testing will begin Aug. 19 and run through November, said project manager Rachel Broughton.
It’s not the only place a 4-to-3 trial is in progress. This week, crews are expected to finish re-striping Larpenteur Avenue between Dale Street and Rice Street through Maplewood, Roseville and St. Paul.
Next year, the county is looking at converting Larpenteur into a three-lane roadway between Rice Street and Interstate 35E.
More conversions may be coming. The county is now studying all of its undivided roadways to see if they are candidates to be reconfigured to a 4-to-3 layout, Broughton said.
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