Suffolk moves to regulate scooters

Published 9:07 pm Friday, December 27, 2019

Scooters and other “shared mobility devices” will now be regulated after City Council recently passed an ordinance to control their usage.

The ordinance, adopted by a 7-0 vote Dec. 18, means companies wanting to bring scooters or other motorized devices into the city must maintain $4 million in liability insurance, have a staffed operations office in the city and 24-hour contact information available for users and city officials, and it must be able to accommodate requests to move devices placed inappropriately by having a sticker with contact information for service staff.

“It’s not to prohibit anybody from owning one, or commuting (by using) their own personal stuff,” said Public Works Director L.J. Hansen, who presented council with a proposed ordinance earlier this month. He said it is also not intended to regulate any privately owned bicycles, motorized wheelchairs or skateboards.

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Only two companies will be licensed to operate in the city at any given time, according to Hansen, and they would have to apply to the Public Works Department for a permit to create a city network. The licenses would be valid for one year and could be renewed.

Also, the devices must have GPS, braking and lighting, and they must also have information on them to tell users about safety measures and laws. The devices also will have speed restrictions and the ability to enforce operational location restrictions by regulation. There are also parking restrictions on them.

Hansen said the Public Works Department has been working with the city attorney’s office on the ordinance.

Public Works staff will now develop an application process and fee schedule for applications from companies to operate in the city. Hansen said regulations would not likely be adopted until later because they depend on the type of device and each device’s unique systems operations model.

“This is something that has been a challenge for some municipalities to deal with,” Hansen said.

While Suffolk does not currently have any scooter rental companies or shared mobility devices operating in the city, legislation that passed the General Assembly last year states that any company or person would be allowed to operate in the city without a license unless cities or municipalities adopted their own ordinances regulating them by Jan. 1.

“We, just like other municipalities, are trying to make sure we have something in place before that,” Hansen said.