Davis wants emergency ban on electric scooters until city draws up safety rules

The city of Davis, often called the bicycling capital of the country, isn’t quite ready to offer open arms to the new e-scooter craze.

Officials will ask the City Council on Tuesday for an urgency ordinance banning the popular but controversial motorized scooters “for the immediate preservation of the public health, safety and welfare.”

They say that will buy them time to draw up rules that for the app-based rental scooters to be used safely on city streets that already are crowded with bicyclists, pedestrians and cars.

“We are generally supportive of the idea of the shared scooter, but we want to control our destiny,” Mayor Brett Lee said. “What we don’t want is to wake up one morning and find a hundred scooters lying around on the sidewalks.”

In a report to council, officials say several scooter rental companies have inquired about bringing their stand-up, motorized devices to town. Companies such as Bird, Lime, Scoot and Skip typically drop bunches of scooters off on sidewalks in busy areas to be used by residents who reserve and pay for them via cellphone app.

“The unregulated and sudden introduction of motorized scooter share programs come with significant safety concerns that have already arisen in other cities,” city public works and transportation officials wrote in a memo to the council. “Motorized scooters can cause safety hazards in the public right-of-way ... because they can travel up to 15 mph, causing increased risk of collision and injury to riders, pedestrians, and other vehicles.

“Scooters are also often left parked or unattended on streets, sidewalks and other public locations like parks due to the convenience of leaving them anywhere that a customer’s trip ends. This convenience to users, however, results in the often haphazard placement of the devices on sidewalks, streets, and private property where they can become trip hazards, and block pedestrian and wheelchair access. “

Mayor Lee said the city is talking with scooter companies about making sure scooters will be useful, but not an annoyance. “We don’t want to see them left in the middle of sidewalks or on peoples’ lawns,” Lee said.

One idea proposed by some scooter companies is to have company staff members on duty who make sure scooters are parked properly. Another company recently initiated a user-education video. The companies also can collect scooters at the end of the day and redistribute them to key locations, reducing clutter.

The Davis council is scheduled to hear the matter at its Tuesday meeting. Lee said he hopes the city can come up with a proposed ordinance in the next two or three months.

A handful of others cities around the state, including San Francisco, enacted temporary bans this year before coming up with regulations controlling how the devices are used.

The city of Sacramento currently is writing an ordinance that would control the use of the scooters, likely by requiring scooter rental companies to pay a few per scooter in use, and to provide designated parking so that scooters aren’t left scattered on sidewalks.

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