Summit County pushes back against electric scooter bill | ParkRecord.com

Summit County pushes back against electric scooter bill

A man rides an electric scooter across a street crossing in downtown Salt Lake City, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.
Christopher Samuels/Park Record

Summit County officials are pushing back against a bill in the Utah Legislature that they say would override the county’s ability to regulate electric scooter shares.

The bill, S.B. 139, from Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, would legalize the use of electric scooters on streets across the state and allow cities to promote their use. However, Summit County’s transportation officials worry it would limit the county’s ability to prohibit companies that meet certain criteria outlined in the bill from operating in the county.

The Summit County Council passed a temporary-zoning ordinance to regulate the use of electric scooters in September. The six-month ordinance was intended to give county staffers time to create permanent standards for how private scooter share companies will operate in the county. It expires next month.

Summit County and Park City officials recently posted an online survey to gain a better understanding of how the community feels about electric scooter shares. County officials wanted to determine whether they should let the ordinance expire or if a permanent one should be created through zoning.

“This bill would tie our hands,” said Caroline Rodriguez, Summit County’s regional transportation planning director. “It would not allow us to put appropriate regulations in place to serve our needs.”

The county’s temporary ordinance establishes standards for operation that cover franchise agreements, business licenses, areas of use and impound provisions. While the scooters have not been a common sight in the county, they are being widely used in Salt Lake City and many other areas.

“The list of items that can be regulated under this bill are minimal,” Rodriguez said. “It restricts maximum speed and use in a pedestrian zone. But, what if we want to restrict speed on our transportation trails or want to institute reasonable fees that allow us to manage the burden these could create for our system?”

The use of electric scooters on most city streets throughout the state was not technically legal, Cullimore said in an email. The scooters are banned on streets with speed limits of 25 mph or more and on streets with more than two lanes, he said.

“These limitations made e-scooters and e-scooter sharing companies legally not viable,” he said. “We are hoping to make the e-scooter option more legally viable in cities to potentially promote their use… Cities outside of Salt Lake City were especially interested in this bill in the hopes of broadening the use of e-scooters to their cities.”

Cullimore said the measure would not prevent local authorities from regulating the use of the scooters. But, he said, they would need to be consistent with regulations of bikes. He added, “The thought is the e-scooters should be used like bikes in bike lanes where available.”

Cullimore said the bill would not “tie the county’s hands.” But, he went on to cite specific language in the bill that states local authorities would be prevented from “imposing any unduly restrictive requirements on a scooter-share operator.”

The measure has not seen much opposition, Cullimore said, adding that it has the support of the industry and some cities and municipalities.

The House Transportation Committee gave the bill a favorable recommendation on March 6, with a vote of 11-1. It has already passed the Senate. As of Tuesday morning, the bill was awaiting a final vote in the House. If it passes and is signed into law, it would go into effect 60 days after the session ends on March 14.