Council Chairman Smith Wary On Allowing Hundreds Of Electric Scooters/Dockless Bikes On City Streets

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

City Council Chairman Ken Smith said he is wary of allowing hundreds of electric scooters/dockless bikes on Chattanooga streets.

"You can go on Google and in five seconds see the problems. Cities like Los Angeles and Indianapolis are fed up with them. People are setting fire to them, smearing poop on them and throwing them in the Pacific Ocean."

He also said the scooters "could wind up left all over our streets. I would look twice before I voted to approve allowing them."

But City Transportation Director Blythe Bailey is touting the new form of transportation. He said several companies are anxious to set up shop here, and the city should have an ordinance regulating them ready by the end of the month.

Mr. Bailey said, "The city of Chattanooga strives to assure that all of our public street and open spaces are active and alive as well as safe and well-managed. We believe that a city that is occupied with people going about their business in a variety of ways is a city that is healthy and is a great place to live, work and play.

"Multiple mobility options can contribute positively to a vibrant business model to work in Chattanooga as well as a clear permitting process and consistent enforcement so that Dockless Systems (mobile scooters, dockless bikes, and other systems as the technology emerges) can operate safely and to the betterment of Chattanooga citizens and the public spaces that we enjoy."

Mr. Bailey said the plan is to have firms obtain Temporary Use Permits to be able to ply city streets. He said the charge would be $110 per vehicle in the fleet per year. The program would be evaluated for possible changes after a year.  

He said the devices would not be allowed on sidewalks, but would mainly travel in bike lanes. He said they would share the roads with cars.

Mr. Bailey said, "Our city is a great place to be and these companies want to be here."

He added, "I don't think adding more vehicles to our streets will be a problem."

Councilman Darrin Ledford said he owns one of the scooters himself. He said, "I love it, but they can zip around and are quite dangerous. I would not let my nine-year-old son on one."

He also noted that in photos illustrating the devices "I don't see anybody wearing helmets."

He asked if there would be a "scooting under the influence" penalty for those who may visit a bar for several drinks, then get on one of the devices.

Another issue raised was the problem of the scooters being stolen and vandalized. Mr. Bailey said the scooters will be outfitted with GPS so they can be located by the owner.

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