West Palm Beach, advancing goal of providing transportation alternatives, approves scooter rentals and regulations and now will seek contractor to provide the service.

WEST PALM BEACH - Rental scooters soon will soon be scooting into view on West Palm Beach streets.


As the growing city paves the way for alternatives to cars, the city commission took an initial vote to establish regulations that would govern electric scooter rentals, setting in motion a search for a concessionaire to provide the service along with bikes and electric bikes.


A second and final vote is expected to be scheduled in the next few weeks.


Amid reports of “scooter littering” and other problems confronted by cities around the country, West Palm had instituted a moratorium on rental scooters until it could research the issue and craft regulations to control their use. Staffers studied programs in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Seattle and other cities.


Under the framework proposed Monday, scooters would have a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour and could not be used on sidewalks.


The concessionaire would select the areas where the scooters would be available. That means they’d be where the profit potential is highest, Traffic Engineer Uyen Dang said.


That likely would include downtown, the Jefferson Terminal District, South Dixie Highway near Palm Beach Atlantic University and Belvedere Road, and Northwood, she said.


The city would track where they were used and after three to six months might adjust that deployment area to meet the need. It might be decided, for example, that the Palm Beach Outlets area would be appropriate as well, Dang said.


They would be available only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and would not be rented to anyone younger than 16. Anyone younger than 18 would have to wear a helmet.


The private system operator would require all scooters be parked and returned to designated locations, and would provide 24-hour, 7-day customer service. Damaged scooters would have to be picked up within two hours, four hours on holidays.


The company also will be required to relocate parked scooters all day, to make sure they’re available throughout the area and not over-concentrated in one spot.


The scooters would have to be picked up or secured during extreme weather or special events.


The scooters should be rentable even by people who don’t have a credit card, smart phone or bank account, under the new rules.


Dang said the city would work with a public relations agency to educate the public about scooter rules and to encourage their safe use.


Commissioner Christina Lambert, saying she tried a scooter and found it wasn’t as easy to use as it looks, asked whether training would be required. Dang replied that that would be the scooter company’s responsibility, along with insurance.


"You’re right, e-scooters are not that easy," Dang said. "They’re a lot of fun but your center of gravity is higher" than with a non-power scooter, she said.


Mayor Keith James called for "a comprehensive, robust communication and education program."


According to Dang, "micro-mobility" rentals - manual and battery-powered bikes and scooters - are increasingly popular across the U.S. In 2018, 84 million trips were taken on shared bikes and scooters in the U.S., doubling the previous year’s usage, she said.


West Palm’s Downtown Development Authority already has a contract with SkyBike to provide bicycle rental racks around the city. According to DDA Executive Director Raphael Clemente, an avid cyclist, the bikes have been heavily used.


SkyBike, as its contract expires, is expected to be one of the bidders to provide the new bike and scooter service the city is soliciting, Clemente said.


tdoris@pbpost.com


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