By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor

Gilbert is considering several options for electric scooters – including a pilot program open to all scooter companies that want to do business in town.

Staff is expected to bring back more details on the program and provide a draft licensing agreement and draft ordinance at the March 7 council meeting.

“We feel micromobility is here to stay and will continue to evolve,” said Nichole McCarty, transportation planner at last week’s Town Council meeting. “A pilot program will let us monitor it.”

Gilbert’s move comes as Scottsdale is examining the e-scooter regulations it passed in November after a local hospital reported 20 scooter-related accident victims were taken to the trauma unit since October. The trauma unit treats more serious injuries than an emergency room.

Scottsdale merchants continue to complain that scooters are being left in the middle of the sidewalk – an ordinance violation – and that little is done to enforce the ordinance. Local officials are now considering special enforcement targeting moving violations by scooter operators – including driving under the influence, speeding and reckless driving.

While embracing the emerging technology, Gilbert officials say they are taking into account the public’s safety and complaints about unsightly clutter on rights-of-way.

Some of the components of the pilot program include parking requirements, revenue-sharing, penalty fees and safety compliance.

McCarty said staff was considering a pilot program without an end date that would be allowed to evolve naturally with the town making modifications as needed along the way.

She presented two other options for Council to consider, a pilot program with a single company and an outright ban of the on-demand scooters that require a smartphone app, credit card and driver’s license for use.

Dealing with one company would allow Gilbert better control and faster implementation of the pilot program but it would require town resources to kick other competitors out of town, McCarty said.

The advantages of going with a program involving more than one company allows for flexibility to accommodate new technology in a rapidly changing ecosystem and exposure to different providers developing varying technologies, staff said. The drawbacks, however, included more staff time and resources to monitor the program.

Councilwoman Brigette Peterson said there are two communities in Texas that are doing a good job regulating the new technology and asked staff to get feedback from them.

“The only thing that still makes me nervous is this thing is going to evolve over time,” Councilman Scott Anderson said. “I think we are being forced into something we are not ready to accept yet.”

He said he didn’t see where staff talked about a plan on what the town needed for infrastructure to handle micromobility transportation. As is, town residents don’t like the current infrastructure for bike lanes, he added.

He said Gilbert needs to find out what other communities are doing in this situation.

“Staff feels the same way and wished we got in front of this,” said

McCarty.

But the town’s micromobility strategy needed to start now, she added.

“The goal is to get control over what has been dropped on us,” she said.

Town Manager Patrick Banger said it’s not just commercially owned electric transports but a proliferation of privately-owned scooters that Gilbert also is seeing.

He said the data gleaned from a pilot program will help the town make informed decisions so people can enjoy electric bikes and electric scooters recreationally or for a last-mile transport in a safe manner.

Councilwoman Aimee Yentes favored an open pilot program and said she understood the infrastructure concern. But this is moving technology and once people think they’ve figured it out, the next new technology appears, she said.

Councilman Jared Taylor said the idea of revenue-sharing bothered him and that these companies should be treated like any other company.

For example, if an insurance company was to set up in Gilbert, the town would not be asking it for revenue-sharing. He said some method of collecting sales tax, however, should be in place. He also favored having the staff look at cost-recovery from these companies for using public rights-of-way.

Vice Mayor Eddie Cook said he favored temporary ban.

“All the discussion here to me indicates we haven’t had time to really think about this,” he said, adding he favored putting an end-date for the program.

He said he didn’t know how much staff time was being spent on this when there were other higher priority projects that needed staff attention.

Mayor Jenn Daniels left the meeting early and did not comment on the issue.

Other municipalities also are wrestling with how to deal with the proliferation of e-scooters that started popping up in the Valley in 2018, with more coming.

Previously Bird, Lime and Razor were the only providers operating in the Valley but this month they were joined by rideshare company Lyft and Spin, which was acquired by Ford Motor Co. last year.

Phoenix is considering a year-long pilot program that would limit the two-wheelers to a 2-square-mile area of downtown with a $500 application fee, a $5,000 permit fee and a 10-cents-per-ride fee. Council reportedly is to vote on the proposal in March.