Here’s what you need to know about those new scooters

Gainesville’s new e-scooters entered local public life on June 7, and local residents have taken note. Gainesville-centered social media groups have taken up the topic multiple times, with many voicing their opinions.

Resident Devon Bloodsworth said he has yet to ride a scooter, but he thinks they could work in Gainesville with all the foot traffic around UF.

“There’s enough scooters already—these are just rentable,” Bloodsworth said in an interview.

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Jeremiah Crumitie thinks the scooters could cause problems, especially with COVID-19 not completely gone. He questions what will happen if someone with the virus takes a ride and then someone else hops on the same vehicle.

Plus, in the first 12 days of operation, not everyone has followed the city’s rules, despite encouragement from the scooter companies. Crumitie said he’s already seen kids riding on scooters with parents, which is not allowed.

Two scooters parked on sidewalk

Before e-scooter companies Bird, Veo and Spin started one-year permits last week, the City of Gainesville created an ordinance to detail what it expected of the companies and their riders.

The ordinance limits e-scooter companies to three at any given point and gives the city the right to revoke the scooter permits if the companies diverge from the ordinance.

Rossana Passaniti, Gainesville’s public information officer, said the city worked hard to have a clear ordinance before the one-year trial began.

“We definitely wanted to have the regulatory framework in place,” Passaniti said.

She explained that Bird, Veo and Spin control how the ordinance plays out in real life. For example, the city requires an education component to inform riders about safety and the rules of the road for e-scooters in Florida. If you download Bird’s app, an animated video shows how to start, stop and park the vehicle.

You can click to pass through the instructions, and then you’re off. The instructions are accessible in a side menu at all times and list local rules:

  • The Bird must be ridden on sidewalks and yield to pedestrians
  • Rider must have a valid driver’s license
  • Rider must be 18 years old
  • No double riding
  • Follow all state and local laws

Passaniti said the vendors also allow citizens without bank accounts to use the micromobility service, ensuring equal access.

Passaniti said the city hopes these scooter services will serve as an alternative, low carbon mode of transportation that might reduce traffic congestion.

Gainesville requires the scooters to have a top speed of 15 mph, and in certain areas of the city, like along University Avenue and around Depot Park, the speed is reduced. The scooters are also only available for use from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.

The companies must also regulate parking. Bird clearly marks “No Ride or Park Zones” in the app, like the downtown parking garage. The app also has users take a picture of the parked scooter.

Gainesville map showing areas off limits to scooters

In its ordinance, Gainesville listed several requirements for parking:

  • Scooters must always be parked upright.
  • Scooters can’t be parked in on-street vehicle parking spaces, bike lanes, driveways, business entryways or other geofenced areas.
  • Scooters can’t be parked in a way that adversely affects the public use of streets or sidewalks, inhibits pedestrian movement, the ingress and egress of vehicles parked on or off the street or creates conditions which are a threat to public safety and security.

Graham Glover, spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department, said the police treat scooters like bicycles. He said safety for scooters is similar: wear a helmet and follow the bicycle rules.

Glover reported that GPD has received calls about the scooters, but most scooter issues aren’t within the department’s purview—similar to the way bicycle crashes don’t merit a police response.

He said it will take some time to see how Gainesville adapts to the new service.

“Different communities respond to [scooters] differently,” Glover said.

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