You will likely see a drove of electric scooters whizzing around St. Petersburg this fall if the city meets its goal, but don’t expect to find them on sidewalks.
The city has been watching scooter rollouts in other jurisdictions, including Tampa, where scooters have been zipping along city sidewalks since May. That likely won’t be happening in St. Petersburg.
The city’s transportation and parking management director told the Tampa Bay Times that the scooters are “just too fast and don’t mix well in a downtown urban environment like we have in St. Pete with sidewalk cafes and how busy the sidewalks are.”
After Governor Ron DeSantis approved a law in June that allows scooters to ride in streets and bike lanes across the state, the city is drafting an ordinance to regulate scooter use and is seeking bids from scooter companies. During an upcoming meeting with council members, city officials will share resident feedback about scooters, as well as make recommendations about how the vehicles should be regulated.
From there, the city’s goal is to have scooters up and running at some point this fall. The city hopes that their use will be a “first mile, last mile solution” for trips that are too long for walking but too short for cars to be necessary.
Scooters are a great alternative to getting around without exerting too much effort. You can get places faster without sweating as much on foot or biking.
Scooters seem to be gaining support, including from the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. Bill Kent, the chamber’s board chair, said there is consensus among the chamber that scooters should be given a chance, but in a slow rollout as to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact local businesses.
“You’ve got to get it right or it will lead to concerns. There is a general consensus that is should be explored,” Kent said. “They add one more fun thing to our funky town.”
Some details are still up for discussion, but it seems pretty clear that the city does not want scooters on sidewalks and helmets likely won’t be required. The St. Petersburg City Council would give final approval.
New state legislation was good for the city because it allowed the scooters to ride on the street. Due to the amount of pedestrians, the city probably wants the scooters to be limited to bike lanes and low-speed streets.
Just like helmets aren’t required for bike-sharing, they likely won’t be mandated for scooters.
Helmets tend to be a “pretty major impediment,” as it is hard to get helmets into everyone’s hands, but the city will likely strongly encourage helmet use.
Speed would probably be curbed to 15 miles per hour or less. New technology could allow the city to change maximum speeds based upon location. For example, on certain trails, perhaps scooter speed could be limited to 10 miles per hour to allow for safer mixing with bikers and walkers.
Most scooters used on the Pinellas Trail would be under Pinellas’ County’s jurisdiction to regulate, not the city’s. Scooters would likely be allowed on the downtown trail extension, but “less likely” to be permitted on the waterfront trail.
Questions remain about hours of operation, the number of scooters to be allowed and whether scooters will have to always park in designated “docks” or merely follow general guidelines on where to park.
An undetermined number of scooters would be phased in while the hours of operation would likely not be 24 hours per day or stretch into the wee hours of the night.
Requiring scooters to be parked in docks won’t be ideal, but that can be logistically difficult if there aren’t enough docks.
Parking rules might just generally describe where scooters could park as to not block sidewalks, among other things.
In Tampa, scooters must be parked in “corrals,” but people have still complained about scooters parked in ways that blocked sidewalks.
The city has been examining injury and death rates from scooter use in a number of cities, including in Tampa, where a scooter rider died last month after being struck by a semi-trailer truck. The death was unfortunate, but isn’t likely to sway the project.
In the city of Tampa, scooter operators must be 16 years or older and are required to have a valid driver’s license or permit. Helmet wearing is encouraged, but not required. On average, the scooters can travel at speeds up to about 15 mph and operate between 15 to 20 miles on a single charge.
Motorized scooter users must:
- Obey all traffic laws
- Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian
- Not carry passengers (only one person may occupy a motorized scooter at a time)
- Helmet-wearing is encouraged, but not required
- Not operate a scooter while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Electric scooters are new to most people in Tampa Bay and the surrounding areas, and there are bound to be more than a few accidents as people learn how to operate them. The types of accidents that people are involved in can vary, and victims could be the riders of scooters, as well as other people, like pedestrians and bystanders. Due to the fact that these devices have speeds that are relatively low, most people do not anticipate a huge risk of injury when operating these vehicles.
While scooters seem perfectly safe, the people riding them can be exposed to serious injuries simply because of their inherent lack of protection. Some of the most severe scooter accidents can result in such injuries as:
- Muscle strains
- Road rash
- Nerve damage
- Internal organ injuries
- Neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
These types of injuries usually involve hefty medical bills. Some scooter accidents may even result in fatal injuries. In such cases, family members could file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party.