Saturday, May 8, 2021

'Play with a purpose' | Electric scooter businesses now legal in Racine

 May 7—RACINE — The city is a bit closer to having shared electronic scooters as an alternative form of transportation.

The City Council on Tuesday voted in favor of an ordinance that will create a business license for interested electric shared scooter companies. The cost of the license is $1,500 per year along with an administrative fee.

The ordinance expires at the end of the year. After that, the city can choose if it wants to renew the ordinance.

Pilot program

The ordinance passed with a cap of 100 scooters — not the 300 preferred by the representative of Bird, the California-based company looking to open shop locally.

Through Bird, scooters could be rented with a cellphone application and would allow people to travel across town on wheels without getting into cars or purchasing bus fare. The scooters could also make it easier for people to use public transportation, then travel that last mile or two on wheels.

Alderman Trevor Jung has been a champion of the project.

"Electric scooters are one of the fastest-growing staples of urban mobility, not only in the United States but across the world," he said.

Electronic scooters could reduce traffic congestion and pollution while meeting some of the city's transportation needs.

"And so it's addressing many of the concerns that we, as a common council, have in our charge for addressing quality of life for residents," Jung said.

However, he continued, it really is only "one piece of the puzzle ... by no means is this the whole plan."

One of the best parts of shared electric scooters is they're fun, he pointed out. He quoted one constituent as saying: "This is play with a purpose."

Scooter cap

The ordinance did pass with almost everything a scooter company could want.

Michael Covato, a representative from Bird, attended the Public Services and Works Committee meeting last week.

At that time, he indicated the company would prefer to come in with 300 scooters.

Will 100 be a problem? Jung doesn't think so. It is a pilot year, after all.

"I believe it will work," Jung said. "If it does, we'll add more and if we need to review the policy, this gives us an opportunity to do that.

"Local government needs to be agile and take good ideas and run with them — or scoot with them, I should say," he said with a laugh.

Language tweaked

The language of the ordinance was tweaked a bit after a complaint from Covato concerning the indemnification language of the ordinance.

Indemnification language outlines who will be financially responsible if there is a lawsuit. The language in the proposed ordinance indicated if there was a legal problem relating to the scooter business, the scooter company would be responsible for defending the city.

However, Covato said, what if the city was responsible for the issue? What if it is the city's negligence that leads to a lawsuit? Does the scooter company still have to pay? Covato said that did not seem fair.

City Attorney Scott Letteney agreed.

"I considered it and think it was a well-taken criticism to this language," Letteney said. "So I added a sentence to the indemnification paragraph."

The sentence indicates it is the duty of the scooter company to defend the city against lawsuits arising from the scooters unless it was the city's negligence that caused the issue.

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