Longmont’s City Council on Tuesday is to discuss whether to permit electric scooters to operate on public paths and city sidewalks.
Staff members said Longmont has been approached by electric scooter rental companies with requests to allow people to operate scooters in the city.
That, staff wrote in a memo for Tuesday’s council meeting, “is a community-wide issue, as scooters would need to be allowed to operate and be parked on public sidewalks to be a viable operation. For the viability of these companies to come into Longmont, the Model Traffic Code (MTC) would need to be amended to allow electric scooters to be regulated similar to bicycles and electric bicycles,” which are permitted on paths and sidewalks.
While staff is seeking the council’s direction on the issue, it wrote that it has mixed feelings about recommending for or against allowing electric scooters.
“Many staff members in Public Safety have expressed specific concerns about personal liability of the riders and overall safety to the typical sidewalk users as well as current roadway users,” according to that memo, which added, though that some Planning and Development Department staff members “point out the benefits to electric powered scooters … filling the First/Final Mile void.
That refers to the gap some people who aren’t driving vehicles to their destinations face when getting from their homes to transit stops, work, appointments or shopping trips and back — voids where electric scooters could be a “useful tool” for some of those people.
Longmont’s recently adopted version of the Model Traffic Code allows electric scooters on public streets but does not allow them on limited-access highways, bicycle or pedestrian paths or public sidewalks. Scooters operated on Longmont streets are not allowed to operate at speeds of more than 12.5 miles per hour.
The staff memo listed both positive and negative arguments about allowing companies to provide customers with electric vehicles that could be operated on Longmont paths and sidewalks.
Among the positives staff cited:
- Shared electric scooters represent a low-cost mobility option for those who cannot afford an automobile.
- Electric scooters facilitate access to transit and provide a first/last mile transportation option.
- Electric scooters produce no tailpipe emissions.
- Electric scooter share companies have the ability to restrict locations where scooters may operate.
Among the negatives staff listed:
- For those who operate scooters, there is an increased risk of injury.
- Increased electric scooter usage leads to a corresponding increase in pedestrian-scooter conflicts.
- The environmental benefits of electric scooters is eroded by a number factors, if they are just replacing a large number of trips that would have otherwise been made using a non- or low-polluting mode such as cycling, walking, or sharing a vehicle with other passengers.
- People using shared electric scooters in other cities have been known to block ADA access ramps and sidewalks.
Longmont Transportation Planning Manager Phil Greenwald said in an email that two national e-scooter rental companies, Bird and White Fox, have approached the city in the last six months regarding electric scooters in Longmont.
Greenwald wrote, “Longmont has been working with our neighboring cities to the south, i.e., Louisville, Lafayette, Erie, Broomfield and Westminster, to work with e-bike-share companies to bring in a single company for us all to coordinate with regarding bikeshare. This has been difficult/impossible during the pandemic. Some of these cities have been approached by scooter companies as well, but I’m not hearing that these cities want to move forward with e-scooters just yet.”
If Longmont were to adopt an ordinance allowing e-scooters to be operated on public paths and sidewalks, their riders would have to observe the city’s downtown dismount zone, which since Jan. 1 has required people to dismount from their bikes, electric assisted bicycles, scooters, skateboards or motorized skateboards on sidewalks on the west side of Main Street between Third and Longs Peak avenues and on the east side of Main between Second and Longs Peak avenues.
Earlier this month, the Boulder City Council approved a “micromobility” traffic ordinance that expands the types of micromobility devices that are allowed and dictates where those devices can be used and where they must be dismounted.
Under that ordinance, Boulder allows e-scooters on multiuse paths, on residential streets and in bike lanes on all other streets as well as on the sidewalk if no bike lane is present. Previously, the city banned e-scooters in its public rights of way, and Boulder’s council had discussed banning all commercial e-scooter companies from operating in Boulder during a January 2020 study session.
If you watch
What: Longmont City Council regular meeting
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Council and city staff members will participate from remote locations. Residents can watch the meeting by clicking “play” on the video link within the interactive agenda window. The mayor will announce when people can call in to comment during the portion of the meeting when the public is invited to be heard.
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