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City council postpones e-scooter legislation vote, approves three amendments



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Bloomington residents raise their hands April 17 during the Bloomington City Council meeting in City Hall. People were raising their hand to say they wanted to speak during public comment. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

The Bloomington City Council passed three amendments and discussed seven other amendments to the city’s e-scooter regulation ordinance Wednesday night.

The council voted to postpone the rest of its discussion and voting on the scooter legislation until May 1.

The amendments passed included correcting a date in the ordinance that indicated the scooters had arrived in 2019 instead of 2018, allowing scooter companies more flexibility in how they discount rides for eligible low-income individuals as long as it is equivalent to a 50% discount and preventing the city from publicly sharing sensitive scooter data.

Other amendments discussed were more controversial among the council members.

Council members Dave Rollo and Chris Sturbaum wrote an amendment that would prohibit scooters on all sidewalks, crosswalks and side paths. The current rule in the ordinance allows scooters on sidewalks outside of the specified dismount zone.

The dismount zone will be in pedestrian-heavy areas of downtown including Kirkwood Avenue from Indiana Avenue to Morton Street, Fourth Street from Indiana Avenue to Grant Street, Sixth Street from Walnut Street to Morton Street and College Avenue and Walnut Street from Fourth Street to Seventh Street.

Rollo and Sturbaum said they wrote the amendment in the interest of pedestrian safety, but other council members and one resident argued scooter riders’ safety would be compromised by riding in the street.

Christine Missik said she has been riding a personal scooter in Bloomington for 12 years and likes riding on sidewalks. Missik said she slows down when she is near pedestrians.

“I’m terribly upset about the idea of scooters only being allowed on roads,” she said.

Rollo pointed to the number of scooter-related injuries doctors reported at last week’s city council meeting as a reason for keeping the vehicles off sidewalks.

Council member Andy Ruff pointed out that those injuries primarily affected scooter riders — not pedestrians.

Many council members were reluctant to voice support on the amendment, which will be voted on May 1.

Another controversial amendment would cap the number of scooters allowed per company at 200, which would leave Bloomington with 600 overall. City attorney Mike Rouker said although the city can’t share the exact numbers of scooters currently in Bloomington because of agreements with the scooter companies, he could say the number is between 500 and 600 scooters.

City officials said for now they want to let the market regulate the number of scooters in Bloomington and do not see the number as too high.

“I think we agree that there were too many scooters last fall,” Rouker said. “But that is not the case now.”

Director of public engagement Mary Catherine Carmichael said the city wants to collect at least a year’s worth of data before issuing limits on scooter numbers.

The city also the opposed the amendment to reduce speed of scooters to 10 miles per hour instead of the proposed 15 miles per hour. Rooker said city officials saw it as a safety concern if scooters will be on streets.

Kaleb Crain, a resident who relies on an electric wheelchair to get around, proposed adding an 11th amendment: ban scooters from parking on all sidewalks — not just sidewalks in dismount zones. Crain said he fell out of his wheelchair two weeks ago while trying to get around a scooter parked on a sidewalk.

“This is a serious issue for some of the more vulnerable people in the population,” he said.

The scooter ordinance was proposed by the city in response to the introduction of electric scooters to Bloomington in September 2018. Because scooters are operated on streets and sidewalks, according to law, the city has a responsibility to manage them.

The new regulations are focused on safe usage, eliminating haphazard scooter parking and placing greater responsibility on scooter companies.

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