Editorial: Dockless scooters bring transportation opportunities, public safety challenges

While Lime and Bird scooters were given trial run in the Twin Cities, emphasis must be placed on additional safety regulations.

Daily Editorial Board

The sidewalks of Minneapolis, which have seen nearly every type of transportation, were invaded by something new in the beginning of July — hundreds of motorized scooters. In addition to being fun, they were meant to curb congestion and carbon emissions. While Minneapolis residents have reaped the scooters’ benefits, there are more drawbacks than expected. The city needs to take action.

First and foremost, the City of Minneapolis has specific policy rules when it comes to riding the Bird and Lime motorized scooters — the two scooter companies approved in Minneapolis. Above all, riders must follow the same traffic laws as cyclists. This means scooters must be ridden in bikeways unless signs prohibit — not on sidewalks. Riders must also ride in the same direction as traffic. When these policies are not followed, not only is it dangerous for the rider, it creates immense danger for pedestrians. 

Minneapolis’ first scooter-involved crash happened early August, when a rider collided with a cargo van. Since then, Josh Johnson, the city’s assistant parking systems manager, told the Star Tribune he has received several complaints related to the riding and parking of the scooters. Officials have also said they have concerns for rider and pedestrian safety. 

Our city is not alone in its struggle to enforce policies. 

When the City of San Francisco impounded over 500 scooters due to blocked sidewalks and inappropriate parking, the City knew action had to be taken. Following numerous complaints of riders scootering illegally on sidewalks, running into pedestrians and parking incorrectly, San Francisco banned the popular Lime and Bird scooters. 

It’s only recently San Francisco allowed other companies, Skip and Scoot, to again operate in the city. However, not among the chosen are Lime and Bird — the brands that caused the problem in the beginning. 

In Minneapolis, Bird and Lime need to focus their attention on formal zoning policies for the scooters, such as specific unloading and drop off zones. For example, Nice Ride is rolling out around 1,500 dockless bikes that offer “virtual parking zones.” The spots are located through an app, and the bikes must be left at one of the designated spots. This ensures bikes don’t block any important areas, such as sidewalks or driveways, though they can still be found around the city.

The City and the companies should enforce these types of parking restrictions. Virtual parking zones ensure motorized scooters stay dockless. They could still be parked virtually everywhere, ensuring that sidewalks, driveways and other inconvenient spots aren’t blocked. 

Motorized scooters are a positive contribution to our city, as they offer an additional affordable and fun option for transportation. When they are not properly regulated, logistical issues develop. We urge students and all riders to be respectful of pedestrians and drivers while using motorized scooters. Obeying traffic laws, not riding on the sidewalks and parking the scooters in an unobtrusive manner are some of the policies that must be followed.