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St. Pete leaders to vote this week on adding e-scooters downtown

Posted: 3:08 PM, Oct 01, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-17 07:44:36-04
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Zipping through downtown St. Pete. Soon, electric scooters could be sharing bike lanes in downtown St. Petersburg.

On Thursday, city leaders are expected to vote on a plan to bring electric scooters to the other side of the bay.

If city leaders agree to the e-scooters, they'll come with a long list of rules including:

  • Only allowing e-scooters on streets and in bike lanes, and barring them from sidewalks in downtown and along Central Avenue. (e-scooters will be allowed on sidewalks outside the downtown area.)
  • Restricting the scooters to roads where the speed limit is less than 30 miles per hour.
  • Keeping them off the Pinellas Trail from west of 34th Street, out of waterfront parks on the North Bay Trail from Demen’s Landing to Coffee Pot Park.
  • To fight against scooter clutter (a constant frustration across the bay in Tampa), city leaders would require companies to stage scooters in dedicated parking zones and require users to return scooters to those parking areas when they're finished.
  • Require riders to be 16 years old to operate a privately-owned electric scooter and 18 years old to rent one from a company.
  • Restricting the scooter speed to 15 miles per hour or less.
  • If scooters are left on a sidewalk before the end of a trip, they will not be allowed to block a sidewalk and must maintain at least 5-feet of clearance.
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Downtown business owner Mark Ferguson, who owns Ferg's Sports Bar and Restaurant, says he would be delighted to see e-scooters come to the city.

“We’re getting more hotels, more apartments, we're growing and we need scooters,” he said excitedly.

He'd love for St. Pete residents and visitors to have an easier way to connect two miles from the downtown waterfront to his restaurant on Central Avenue.

“I think the more stuff you can have for people to come down and get around, the better city we’ll be,” Ferguson added.

St. Pete leaders have been closely monitoring Tampa's e-scooter program to create their own rules, but downtown resident Willi Rudowsky worries about how they'll enforce them.

“Instead of parking next to a building, I've seen where they just drop it in the middle of the sidewalk and go on," Rudowsky said, adding: "The people who ride them are not necessarily the most observant. It’s kind of I’m here so you get out of my way.”

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She also worries about crashes and how adding scooters to bike lanes could create more danger in a city already plagued with a high number of pedestrian accidents.

“I got hit by a car in a crosswalk with the light in my favor one time, so I’m super sensitive to anything that distracts drivers,” she added.

A consumer reports investigation found scooters caused around 1,500 injuries nationwide in 2017. St. Pete leaders say they will require scooter companies to carry $6 million in liability insurance, and they believe plans to lower speed limits and reduce driving lanes downtown will help keep e-scooter riders safe alongside bikers and walkers.

"I think it’s a great thing to have. People just have to be responsible and be careful on them,” Ferguson said.

St. Pete leaders will vote on the e-scooters this upcoming Thursday, October 3. If city council members say yes, they'll have a public hearing and vote again on October 17. The earliest St. Pete could see scooters on the road is late Winter or early next Spring, according to Transportation Director Evan Mory.