< < Back to News & Articles

Columbus council bans electric scooter riders from sidewalks

September 26, 2018

From The Columbus Dispatch reporter Rick Rouan:

Columbus has had a seldom-enforced prohibition against adults riding bikes on sidewalks for years. The new law would add electric scooters to that section of city code.

Lime and Bird users will have to scoot on the streets or risk getting a ticket in Columbus.

The Columbus City Council voted Monday to ban electric scooters from riding on sidewalks. Violating that law would be a minor misdemeanor once the city ordinance takes effect in 30 days, though safety officials have acknowledged that police will be lenient in enforcement.

Mayor Andrew J. Ginther’s administration issued a temporary emergency order Sept. 11 to ban the scooters from sidewalks, but the council vote was needed to make it city law as part of a broader package of changes that treat the scooters like bicycles.

Columbus has had a seldom-enforced prohibition against adults riding bikes on sidewalks for years. The proposed change would add electric scooters to that section of city code.

Bird and Lime dropped their fleet of scooters on city sidewalks in July, and city officials have been wrestling with how to regulate them. Riders use a smartphone app to rent the scooters and are charged by the minute.

Councilman Emmanuel Remy said the regulations sought to “create a balance between innovation and safety.”

Under the new law, scooters would have to be ridden on streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, bike lanes and shared-use paths. They cannot be parked on sidewalks in a way that interferes with pedestrians or on streets in a way that blocks traffic.

The new law also institutes a 20 mph speed limit on scooters, bans riding on the freeway, and requires that only one person ride them at a time and without earphones in both ears.

An amendment to the legislation added after a public hearing last weekwould require a rear light visible from up to 500 feet away on each scooter.

Ginther’s administration also has issued regulations that require the companies to obtain city licenses, disclose real-time data, offer an option to rent scooters without a credit card and to distribute the scooters outside the central business district. The council does not need to vote on those regulations.

The administration plans to continue looking at changes to the law and return to council for adjustments, said Frank Williams, administrator for the Division of Infrastructure Management.

“This is a newer industry and we’re reacting to as best we can. We don’t feel we’ve established all the best practices yet because the industry has not been around very long,” he said.