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Summit County Council Bans E-Scooters

After a discussion Wednesday, the Summit County Council decided that they want to establish a prohibition on e-scooters in the County Code.

Council members noted that there are several problems with the scooters; that there’s no strong support from the local public for them; and the county hasn’t seen any scooter operations attempting to set up in the area.

County Development Director Pat Putt reminded Council that they set up a six-month Temporary Zoning Ordinance period last year, given that the e-scooters are becoming a common sight in Salt Lake and other areas.

The staff said the TZO period has actually expired, as of March 19th.

Putt said they set up a draft regulation and detailed what it would cover.

“We built in the requirement for franchise agreements, and the need for a business license, and the ability to define the areas of use where these would be operated,” Putt explained. “There was an insurance indemnification requirement. I think it allowed us the opportunity to place limitations on the number of these commercial share programs that could be in place at one period in time.”

Putt added their goal was to work out an ordinance in conjunction with Park City.

They also conducted a survey on Shared Mobility devices, with a sampling of over 560 residents.

The respondents had several concerns about the scooters, such as safety, conflicts with pedestrians and autos, defining corridors where they could be used, as well as parking and storage.

County Transportation Manager Caroline Rodriguez said the scooters don’t meet a need that they have. She added that the Kimball Junction area already has issues with the biking options being used.

“We’re already having conflicts with bikes, electric bikes and pedestrians,” Rodriguez said. “We have a very vocal resident population there who’s very concerned about safety of these types of devices. Their number one concern is people without helmets, other people without helmets. We already know that we can’t require users of these devices to use helmets. In addition, we have a very good option for people looking to circulate throughout the Kimball Junction area with the Kimball Junction circulator.”

The recent legislative session passed Senate Bill 139 on scooters but limited how local entities can regulate the scooters. For instance, the restrictions on scooters can’t be any different from controls on other modes of transit—meaning, said the staff, that the county can’t require helmets.

Rodriguez said the law isn’t very helpful for them.

“They do give us the right to regulate but it’s almost not in a meaningful way,” Rodriguez continued. “Because when you look at the staff time and the administration involved in regulating a private company like this, that is an enormous burden. We’ve already seen that with the Summit Bike Share. We’ve seen that with Salt Lake City, they have pretty much an entire staff dedicated to figuring out scooters and they still are really struggling with it. We don’t have the ability to put in additional fees. So who’s going to pay the cost for impounding if necessary? I really don’t see that it’s efficient or safe or meets a need that we have.”

She said the scooters are often of poor quality and are disposable.

“There was a reason that we pursued a docked electric bike share,” Rodriguez explained. “That is because of our constrained geography, we wanted to dictate where people could leave their mobility devices. When it’s dockless and when it costs a nominal amount to produce, ostensibly if it doesn’t get picked up by the company or someone looking to make $0.50 for a charge, it becomes litter. In a sidewalk, in a street, in someone’s front yard, because it’s cheaper to leave it than to send someone to pick it up.”

County Manager Tom Fisher said some scooter companies have gotten bad press due to their products just being dumped. Council member Doug Clyde seconded that.

“Where I’ve seen them laying around in the street they look like a pile of trash,” Fisher said. “They’re easy to identify, pick up and throw away.”

“I’m told their very fun, until you have an accident.” Clyde replied.

“I’ll be they are.” Council member Chris Robinson added.

Putt said what they will do is establish a clear prohibition on the scooters.

The decision isn’t set in stone. Tom Fisher said a reputable company could always come to the county and make a case for the scooters. Putt said conditions could change.

“In the event that there is a change either in technology or in the publics acceptance for that we can always come back later on and have a discussion on that.”  Putt said.

“Likewise, if Park City comes back to us and says this is something, we would like to pursue maybe that’s another time for us to look into it,” Deputy County Attorney Helen Strachan continued. “I really do think we would need to be on the same page with this.”

“Yeah I mean we’d hope so,” Clyde replied. “We wouldn’t want the regulations to change at the city border.”

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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