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Electric scooter pilot program gets Lincoln City Council approval

(KOLNKGIN)
Published: Sep. 16, 2019 at 10:18 PM CDT
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The Lincoln City Council has approved a pilot program to allow electric scooters in downtown Lincoln.

The council approved the program 6-1 on Monday. Though not before acknowledging potential problems.

"I have some serious concerns about this," said Councilman Bennie Shobe. "We've heard testimony about injury, we've heard testimony about where they're stored and how they're left in the street."

Many council members said they were concerned about safety, so an amendment was added. You must be 18-years-old or older to rent the scooters, and the pilot program will begin in January 2020.

The pilot program would bring up to three electric scooter companies to downtown Lincoln.

“It became clear to us that we were definitely going to be experiencing this,” said David Cary the Director of the Planning Department after a public hearing last week. “It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when these companies would be arriving in Lincoln.”

The scooters would also be defined as a motor vehicle under an ordinance change, meaning the enforcement of rules would fall to the Lincoln Police Department.

One of the largest concerns is the risk of injury, following serious injuries reported in Omaha by people using electric scooters.

A study done by the city of Austin after they implemented a scooter pilot program shows that the most common injuries happened to the head.

Under Lincoln’s program, it would be up to the Department of Transportation and Utilities to collect any crash and injury data.

Councilman Roy Christensen was the only member to vote no.

"The problems center around two things," Christensen said. "One, people will drive these on the sidewalks even though they're prohibited from being on the sidewalks and cause a hazard to pedestrians, Two, there is a serious problem with the intersection of these scooters and alcohol."

Councilman James Michael Bowers, who introduced the ordinance, said by introducing the pilot program, it allows City Council more control over the process.

"It allows us to put the public safety first by putting in some guidelines and be able to pull out if we determine this is a threat to our public safety," Bowers said. "I'm a fan of this because I think it's better than doing nothing at all and allows us to truly look after our community."

The city will now begin talking with scooter vendors to decide which companies get to bring electric scooters to Lincoln.

The pilot program is expected to start sometime in 2020.

It will run through January 2021 and the city council has the option to stop the program at any time.