With cities around the nation struggling to grasp order over the expanding dockless personal vehicle businesses, Rexburg approved a “pilot” trial of the modern transportation system. Dockless personal vehicle sharing systems are often short-term rental electric scooters or bicycles.
In response to the incoming vehicles, The City of Rexburg drafted their Dockless Personal Vehicles Operating Agreement and then presented the agreement at a City Council meeting earlier this month. Scott Johnson, City Director of Economic Development and Community Relations, told Scroll the six-month pilot program allows the city to implement some level of safety while addressing the chaos that cities around the country have found with e-scooters.
“How do we treat these, and how do we make sure people are safe while we are riding them?” Johnson said. “The last thing we want is them jumping from sidewalk to road, and that’s just going to cause all sorts of chaos.”
The agreement stipulates that riders must be at least 18-years-old, limits speed to 10 mph in downtown and city parks, and use of street bike lanes when possible. The dockless personal vehicles won’t be allowed to operate on private property or the BYU-Idaho property without written permission.
Johnson said while the city can do things to mitigate the chaos, it’s on the companies bringing the dockless personal vehicles to maintain the order.
“We’re going to allow them to be in our right-of-way, but it’s up to them to make sure that nothing gets messed up,” Johnson said. “With that in mind … we’re doing a six month trial period, and they have to meet all the things in the operating agreement.”
Jeff Wolfe and his wife Noelle launched their scooter company GOAT Rexburg to get people outside. He said it will just take people using common sense and reading the instructions to keep the scooters around.
“We just want people to be responsible,” Wolfe said.
At the Sept. 4 City Council meeting, Councilman Jordan Busby said that when talking with people from Mesa, Arizona, about the e-scooters, he discovered the resident’s struggle of scooters littering the streets.
“They said that’s the worst thing to ever happen to Mesa,” Busby said.
Busby said in Mesa the e-scooters are also being dismantled, thrown into irrigation canals and blocking access points.
Johnson said the operating agreement addresses some of the issues with the scooters littering the streets. The operating agreement requires companies to approve daily starting locations not only through the city but also with adjacent property owners.
If parked incorrectly, the company needs to re-locate, re-park or remove the vehicle within 24-hours of receiving notice. If this isn’t done, the city can impound the e- scooter for a daily fee.
“So it really makes those scooter companies have to step up,” Johnson said.
He said while the clutter of the scooters creates concern for the city, most concerning to city officials the safety hazards to pedestrians, vehicles and riders. He said damage can be done with some of the e-scooters traveling up to 20 mph.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, the public health impact of using e-scooters is generally unknown, but a study showed a high proportion of e-scooter related injuries are preventable through education.
“We’ll see probably some public service announcements going out,” Johnson said. “Just so that people understand, ‘hey, this is how I should use it and this is how I shouldn’t.'”
The city’s pilot program allows the interested companies up to 250 dockless personal vehicles during the six month trial period, unless each vehicle has more than one daily average ride. If the rides are less, the city can require a company to reduce its fleet size for low demand. Additionally, if the terms of the agreement are not met, the city can “pull the plug” on their operation.
“We want people to understand this, if they’re going to use them, they need to understand how to use them safely and correctly,” Johnson said. “They need to follow all the rules that apply to how they’re using it.”