Electric scooters have become a ubiquitous sight in downtown Pensacola and it’s not uncommon to see someone riding one and ignoring traffic laws.
More than six months into the city’s one-year e-scooter trial program with Bird Scooters, city officials are working on stricter rules to improve the safety of e-scooters in Pensacola.
The Pensacola Downtown Improvement Board sent a letter to Mayor Grover Robinson and the City Council last month imploring them to change how e-scooters are being regulated in the city.
DIB Executive Director Walker Wilson told the News Journal that the DIB surveyed downtown business owners, and 43 businesses responded with mostly negative feedback about the program.
“We said, well if it’s not going anywhere, then let’s at least try to tame it down a little bit so that if this does stick around, then it can be a little bit more manageable than it is today,” Wilson said.
Scooter’s launch: Pensacola e-scooter program launches downtown, offering another car alternative
Slow down: E-scooter speeds drop to 10 mph after 10 p.m. in downtown Pensacola
Rider injured: Scooter rider struck by car near downtown Pensacola after running stop sign, police say
The DIB’s letter called on the city to limit the total number of e-scooters allowed to 200, create designated pickup and drop off areas, collect a fee per scooter to the city each year, limit the hours of use to between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., require some type of age verification to use the e-scooters and prohibit the use of e-scooters on sidewalks and inside parking garages.
While the e-scooters create a new way to get around downtown, they have not been without their problems.
In October, the city implemented a “slow zone” for e-scooters in central downtown that limited speeds to 10 mph after 10 p.m. The e-scooters regularly have a top speed of 15 mph.
In November, a rider was transported to the hospital with serious injuries after running a stop sign and being hit by a car.
Robinson said he agrees with the issues the DIB raised and his administration was already working on updated regulations before the DIB sent the letter.
The city’s proposed new regulations will limit the time from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and ban scooters from riding on the sidewalk.
Officials are still working on the proposed changes, but the proposal will be presented to the City Council at its agenda conference Tuesday with a vote on the changes set for Thursday.
Robinson said he witnessed the problems with the e-scooters himself after almost hitting a rider last fall when he was driving on Government Street and a rider ran a red light.
“It was a man,” Robinson said. “He had two young children who probably shouldn’t have been on the scooters but they both stopped. Children seem to understand traffic rules and they stopped. The adult did not.”
However, Robinson said, the same problems exist with bike riders and people driving cars.
“We have traffic rules, so we hope that whether you’re on a bike, you’re a pedestrian, you’re on a scooter or your car, we need you to obey the rules that are there,” Robinson said. “And when you don’t, there certainly can be consequences.”
But Robinson said it was too soon to rule out the e-scooter program altogether.
“We’re six months in, and we have another six months to go,” Robinson said. “… If these changes work in the next six months, we’ll know that it’s something we can do. If it doesn’t improve the situation, then we can possibly look at just punting the whole thing.”
Jim Little can be reached at [email protected] and 850-208-9827.
This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Pensacola e-scooters could see stricter rules downtown