ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Pete has new e-Scooters, but they're leaving some locals annoyed when riders abandon them, blocking sidewalks. One of the companies supplying the scooters in the city is rolling out an education campaign on the rules to ride.
"I'm going to take it for a spin. So hopefully it goes well," laughed Errol Bros, who is on vacation from New York, as he got on an app to start the scooter on Beach Drive.
He's leaving the keys to his rental behind and trying out a scooter for the very first time.
"I think it's a good thing because it promotes less driving," said Bros.
The scooters are a hit. Companies Veo and Razor launched the scooters a month ago as part of a pilot program with the City of St. Petersburg. Between the companies, there are over 600 scooters in the Greater Downtown Area and growing.
Riders have an option between either stand-up or sit down scooters. They go up to 15 miles per hour and cost $1 to start and between 33 to 37 cents a minute to ride.
Unlike in Tampa, there are different rules when it comes to these scooters. The electric scooters are not allowed on sidewalks, the popular waterfront trail or at the St. Petersburg Pier. You'll also have to ride them in bike lanes or along streets with posted speed limits at or below 30 miles per hour.
One of the striking differences when it comes to using them in St. Pete is at the end of your ride you have to park the scooter into a designated corral. The city offers over 90 of them. Marked by white posts and the word scooter on the ground, you can easily point out corrals. Plus, both apps for Veo and Razor show you a live map of all the locations.
But not everyone is following the rules.
"I've seen a few left in the middle of the sidewalks, that's not what we want, that's what we saw in other cities prolifically," said Evan Mory, Director of Transportation and Parking Management for the city.
Mory thinks the violators are far and few in between.
"I see it as just another great way to get around that's just going to get more popular," he said of the scooters.
Mo Asghari works for Veo as operations manager in the St. Pete area.
"We want to be the go-to between walking and driving," he said.
He says the majority of riders do it right, but his team is still kept busy. Their white vans drive around the city looking for what's known as nuisance scooters, inappropriately left behind by the rider.
"It's extremely important. We want to keep the territory nice and neat and safe," he said.
The biggest motivator to return the scooters to the corrals is that you can't technically end the ride until you've parked in the designated areas. That means the meter keeps running, and you'll continue to be charged by the minute.
"It's a learning curve. We are about a month into the program, and with that comes a little bit of everyone getting familiar with what the rules and regulations are and most important above all anything else is public safety," Asghari said.
Blocked sidewalks can pose a safety risk to pedestrians and bicyclists and can be especially problematic to people with disabilities.
As Mory predicts, the scooters are only gaining in popularity. Asghari tells ABC Action News they typically average 500 to 600 rides a day during the weekday. On Saturday, they have a record-setting 2,000 rides.
"We are not here for violations. We are here to make sure that the public is educated," Asghari said.
Mory tells ABC Action News when the city reports a 'nuisance scooter' to the companies, they have 30 minutes to correct the situation or the company gets fined themselves.
"So when people ride poorly or they don't park them correctly, they learn by penalty and also the scooter companies," he said. "So, they are incentivized, as well as the riders, to follow the rules and park [the scooters] where they are supposed to."
The scooters are also meant to do good and provide a form of transportation in low-income areas of St. Pete, where there's a high percentage of families with no cars.
"People that are income-qualified can get discounts on getting to ride the scooters, and also we incentivize [for the companies] the scooters being deployed in areas of low ridership and low income," said Mory.
Asghari says Veo is working on an education campaign to get the word out on the rules. The company has currently not fined anyone but does plan to roll out fines this week. You get a warning for the first violation. On top of the rolling meter, there's a $25 fine for the second violation, $50 for the third and eventually a suspension from riding the scooter.
Mory and others are working on a progress report to present to City Council in early 2021. These companies hope to get a three-year renewal of the agreement, more scooters, and eventually a permanent program.