With summer in full bloom, it seems like there should be e-scooters zipping down the streets. But their late appearance, while the city of Winston-Salem prepares itself for the presence of these electronic scooters, guarantees a bit more safety for everyone involved.
A quick recap: Bird-brand e-scooters appeared overnight in August 2018, like a landing of migrating geese. They were activated and paid for by phone app, largely unregulated and unsupervised. Inexpensive, convenient, simple to operate and fun, they were immediately popular.
Unfortunately, stories began to circulate about risky driving habits that sometimes threatened pedestrians, as well as scooter-related injuries and even scooter-rider deaths occurring in other cities.
In November, Winston-Salem’s public safety committee banned the scooters temporarily to study the situation.
That took a while. It was only in May that the City Council invited e-scooter companies to apply for permits to operate here. Its new scooter regulations are part of a “micro-mobility device” ordinance that also includes undocked rental bikes.
Though last year’s prominent company, Bird, has not applied for a permit yet, five others, with experience operating in various parts of the country, have: Blue Duck, Slidr, Spin, VeoRide and Zagster. The city will select two companies in the next week or two that it will allow to operate.
“Most of them are companies that reached out to us when they found out that we were going through an ordinance process,” Matthew Burczyk, the city’s point man on biking and scooters, told the Journal. “Most of them are companies I am not familiar with. I’m happy to see there is as much competition as there is.”
We are, too. E-scooters have become a regular presence in many cities across the U.S., and there’s no reason Winston-Salem shouldn’t be included, as long as they are ridden responsibly and safely.
The new regulations are sensible.
They include banning scooters from greenways, public parks, public sidewalks, parking decks and Old Salem. Companies with scooter permits have to be able to determine when scooters are being ridden in prohibited areas and electronically notify the customer.
Scooter companies must instruct riders how and where to ride and must have a 24-hour hotline people can use to contact the provider. Scooters can’t be ridden after 9 p.m.
Riders must be at least 16 years old. Helmets are encouraged but not required.
Scooter companies must also relieve the city of any liability for injuries.
There’s no doubt that these regulations will make riding e-scooters less convenient and less fun. But there’s also no doubt that they’re necessary to protect the public — as well as to protect inexperienced scooter riders.
Ultimately, it’s going to be the responsibility of every individual who stands on a scooter deck to play it safe, but the City Council has done a good job of finding a balance between fun and safety.