Electric scooters could be rolling into downtown Colorado Springs — but city council members don't want to see them piling up on sidewalks or otherwise creating a public hazard.
City council members in a work session Monday questioned many aspects of a draft proposal to allow e-scooters and asked city staff to refine the rules for further review. The city leaders said they want to make sure regulations are enforceable and help prevent e-scooters from becoming another form of litter.
"This is something we need to take our time with and really put in the effort to do it correctly," Councilman Tom Strand said.
E-scooters rented via a smartphone were growing in popularity in cities before the coronavirus pandemic because they provide a quick way to take short trips in congested areas and help reduce the need for cars. Since March, the number of cities served by electric bikes and scooters has fallen from 170 to 124, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Services in those cities were either shuttered or suspended to slow the spread of the disease, the agency said.
In downtown Colorado Springs, e-scooters could address future congestion because thousands of people are expected to move into the planned apartment complexes and attend events at the two new downtown arenas, City Planning Manager Ryan Tefertiller said.
Councilwoman Jill Gaebler told the board e-scooter companies have approached city officials about providing services locally and the city needs to be ready with rules to govern them.
"We are kind of behind the power curve here on scooters," she said.
Tefertiller presented ideas for regulating scooters, including a permitting process that would allow three companies to rent out scooters and require the companies to collect e-scooters and provide a parking space for each one. Each company could be allowed to provide between 150 and 400 e-scooters and would have to pay an annual fee of $75 to the city for each one, he said.
City rules could also set a speed limit of 15 mph for scooters and outlaw tethering them to trees or handrails, he said.
Council members asked if three was the right number of companies, whether the fees would cover city costs related to scooters, and if the city should limit how few scooters a company could rent.
Councilman Wayne Williams suggested setting up a way for a property owner or neighborhood to request e-scooters be prohibited from a certain area. For example, he would want a method for a neighborhood holding a block party to tell companies not to allow e-scooters in the area for a period of time.
Williams and other councilmembers also said they would want to select the limited number of companies allowed to rent e-scooters in a competitive way so they could make sure quality companies are providing the services.
Councilman Bill Murray was the only one who seemed strongly opposed to allowing e-scooters. In every city where he has seen them, they have been a "disaster epic," he said.
"I am challenging a company to show me a city where they actually work," he said.