Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed off on granting e-scooter riders the same rights as bicyclists. Now, cities across Florida are implementing e-scooter programs.
Tampa’s City Council implemented an e-scooter pilot program on Memorial Day weekend. Tampa’s Director of Transportation, Jean Duncan says the city is analyzing complaints to see what can be improved.
“We’ve had complaints about…people stepping out onto a sidewalk and having a scooter whiz by… complaints about the scooters being in some of the off-limits areas,” but Duncan says there have been positives as well. “We’re also seeing people in business suits or even dresses clearly going to a meeting from one place to the next so we’re hoping this has a real transportation value,” she says.
Tallahassee will also be starting an e-scooter pilot program soon. The City Commission added two more vendors—Bird and Spin to its pilot. While Commissioner Jeremy Matlow expressed concerns during a recent City Commission meeting, he says his support stems from a shortage of alternative transit for Tallahasseans.
“We need to be building infrastructure for all types of transportation. For a long time we’ve really subsidized car transportation above all else. So, maybe this pilot program will help us identify problems on our sidewalks or the way we’re building streets to make sure we’re more commuter friendly,” says Matlow.
There are now five e-scooter vendors slated to participate in the pilot. Before, the commission decided on a maximum of three—Gotcha, VeoRide, and Lime. The commission increased the number because it plans to eliminate any vendors who don’t follow the rules. In the words of City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox: “May the best scooter win.”
Riders access the scooters by downloading an app on their smartphone. Mayor John Dailey says city staff will study data collected from these apps.
“It will be fascinating to look at the data and see how many people are using the scooters as a true transportation unit,” says Dailey. “It will be interesting to see the usage patterns, from point A to point B--the usage routes. What roads are they taking, the frequency of usage, and in particular parts of town, are they using them more than in other places in town and if we are collecting the data to see age wise, who are using the scooters as well.”
Gotcha is one of the vendors chosen for the pilot. Founder and CEO Sean Flood says the data his company collects on riders will remain anonymous, “We do want users to feel comfortable that they can use shared mobility devices assuming that their following the rules.”
Flood says his company does not sell to third parties, but it will share data with cities it partners with. The partners in this case would be the City of Tallahassee.
“Now, that is again, non-specific user data. So, nobody could know that Sean Flood rides a scooter from A to B, but they do know that a user goes from A to B on that product,” says Flood.
Data is already being collected in Tampa, but the city’s Jean Duncan says it’s too early to tell if the scooters are a positive or negative. Her advice to Tallahassee is:
“looking to see if you have the option to customize where you want them within your city—what makes sense—be really sensitive to very high pedestrian areas because we already have challenges between bicyclists and pedestrians. The scooter just adds one more complexity to that.”
City and County Transportation Planner Julie Christesen says the next steps are reaching out to the invited vendors and creating an agreement. The program plans to go live July 15. If the program is successful, the commission could vote to extend it past three months and more vehicles like e-bikes could be included.