By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor
Companies that rent motorized play vehicles such as electric scooters will now have to play by the rules if they want to do business in Gilbert.
Town Council last week unanimously adopted the Micromobility Pilot Program and an ordinance that gives teeth to regulating the new technology.
“This is something that I think is going to be the new norm for us as technology continues to be developed and change the way we live our lives and the way we get around our communities,” Town Manager Patrick Banger said.
“We are going to have to probably establish many pilots through the years as we work with these companies to give them the access to our community so they can understand the product and how consumers are going to want to use them and we begin to understand how to create an environment to where they can be enjoyed safely and effectively.”
The pilot program begins April 6 and is opened to any micro-mobility company that pays a one-time application fee of $2,500.
Electric bicycles and powered skateboards also fall under this program, which has no sunset date until the Council chooses to end it. Staff will report back to Council in a year with results and recommendations.
Gilbert and many municipalities in the Valley and across the country are trying to get a handle on the ubiquitous scooters.
“We need some structure in place,” Mayor Jenn Daniels said. “Our residents have asked us to put some structure in place.”
Previously Bird, Lime and Razor were the only providers operating in the Valley but recently they were joined by rideshare company Lyft and Spin, which was acquired by Ford Motor Co. last year.
Bird was operating in Gilbert and staff indicated Lime just dropped about 200 scooters in town last week in the Heritage District.
Some cities have put in regulations, pilot programs or outright banned them due to a rising number of injuries and complaints about devices blocking sidewalks.
Under the new town ordinance, people can ride scooters on streets with a posted speed limit of 25 mph or on a sidewalk. They are prohibited from riding in a designated bicycle lane, on streets where the speed limit is greater than 25 mph or in any area where signs prohibit the use.
Transportation planner Nichole McCarty explained people will be allowed to ride on the sidewalk where the speed limit on a roadway is greater than 25 mph.
Additionally, people on motorized devices must yield to pedestrians and other users by slowing down, stopping or moving to the opposite side of the path or street. They also must maintain a safe distance behind pedestrians and vehicles and not carry anything that would impede their ability to steer.
The ordinance also will allow the town at the owner’s expense to remove and impound illegally parked scooters. All violations carry a civil penalty.
Companies also cannot staging devices within 10 feet of a loading zone, accessible parking, fire hydrant, curb ramp, building entrances or driveways.
Also, no more than six scooters can be parked at a bus stop. Elsewhere in all other permissible locations, no more than four parked scooters are allowed per company.
The program sets the maximum speed for scooters at 15 mph and 10 mph in dense areas such as San Tan Village shopping center and the Heritage District. The town also will designate “no-go zones” – such as along portions of Gilbert Road – that prohibit scooters and the rider to walk it.
Companies also must inspect their fleets at least once a day and collect all devices for recharging by 10 p.m. daily.
Besides the application fee, companies also must pay a monthly operating fee of 10 cents per ride, which will pay for the wear and tear the devices have on town public rights-of-way.
Councilman Jared Taylor questioned how staff arrived at the figure.
McCarty said staff research found 10 cents was what many cities required and what Phoenix was pursing this spring with its program.
“It’s hard to judge what our costs will be,” she said.
Taylor also asked staff to gather data on how much the town collects from enforcement and how much it costs the town to do enforcement. He added because it is a pilot program, he wanted the ordinance to include a mandatory warning first before handing out a citation.
Police Chief Michael Soelberg said although the ordinance carries civil penalties, officers would use education first.
“He said if Taylor’s suggestion were to be added to the ordinance, it would apply not just to scooters. Soelberg said if someone were to dump trash onto a sidewalk, which is considered an obstruction of a public right-of-way, officers would have to give a warning first.
McCarty said the program carries a lot of penalties for participants “that we hope will curb bad behavior.”
The companies also have to assume all risk, costs, and expenses for any and all damages and injuries that may occur due to damage, destruction or collapse of any public property.
Pilot participants also must agree to share their data with Gilbert so it can manage the program successfully. Data may include who uses the device, payment method, crashes, repair and replacement reports, trip history and total number of devices in service in the data month.