Scooters gone before they came

Published 10:19 pm Monday, December 30, 2019

Norfolk has them — and has struggled mightily with them. Many other cities have them. And Suffolk wanted to ensure they never have them.

That’s the message from a raft of regulations passed by City Council earlier this month governing scooters and other motorized devices, which seem to be proliferating in many larger cities. Among other regulations, the requirement for companies to have a staffed operations office in the city is pretty much a non-starter for outfits like Bird and Lime, which allow people to find and rent scooters to ride with an app on their phone — pretty much the antithesis of a staffed office.

Other cities across the country where the scooters have arrived list a whole passel of issues. Nobody from the companies got permission to set up business in many areas. They cause accidents, get left in unsafe or inappropriate locations and trigger anti-scooter vandalism, leaving local police to either clean up the mess or ignore the problem entirely, which causes its own problems. The localities rush to regulate the scooter companies, and it never seems that they can quite catch up.

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Suffolk’s move, which addressed many of these issues, was in response to a General Assembly measure that passed in its last session. The legislation meant any company would be allowed to operate in the city without a license unless an ordinance regulating them was adopted by Jan. 1.

So theoretically, it was a good idea for Suffolk to get ahead of that before companies came in and started flouting all sense of safety and common decency.

But in reality, Suffolk’s tiny commercial downtown and its sidewalks that are unsafe to walk on, never mind to ride a scooter on, virtually assured they were never coming here anyway. Harbour View may have been a safer venue for them, but its design makes it easy to traverse in a traditional vehicle and eliminates most of the market for these scooters.

We hope in the new year, Suffolk will focus on making its downtown more walkable and leave the scooters in the dust.