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Rock Hill could ban electric scooters. Here’s why

Lime introduces electric scooters in Charlotte

Lime, which already offers dockless bikes in Charlotte, is rolling out electric scooters in the city on Tuesday, May 8. It will be Lime's third city for electric scooters on the East Coast, after Miami and Washington, D.C.
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Lime, which already offers dockless bikes in Charlotte, is rolling out electric scooters in the city on Tuesday, May 8. It will be Lime's third city for electric scooters on the East Coast, after Miami and Washington, D.C.

Electric scooters are zooming down the streets around uptown Charlotte. But they soon could be banned in Rock Hill.

The Rock Hill City Council discussed a pending ordinance Monday night that would prohibit the use of electric scooters, electric-assist bicycles and party bicycles on any public streets, sidewalks, trails or other public rights-of-way for safety concerns.

Leah Youngblood, planning and zoning manager, said this summer, the planning and development staff received an inquiry from someone wanting to rent electric scooters in Rock Hill.

Youngblood said many electric scooter and electric-assist bicycle companies “drop” the devices in cities that do not have clear prohibitions against the scooters and bikes, so Rock Hill is trying to get ahead of the companies and prevent a scooter ambush.

Electric scooters and electric-assist bicycles have safety risks for operators and pedestrians, Youngblood said at the meeting.

According to the pending ordinance, electric scooters and bicycles travel slower than motor vehicles on the road and travel faster than pedestrians on sidewalks — which has led to dangerous collisions.

Youngblood said the pending ordinance would prohibit the scooters and bikes for a period of time, allowing the planning and development staff to research the issue.

“Should you be able to ride them in the street or on the sidewalks?” she said. “In bike lanes? Should they be required to be docked after you finish or should they be allowed to be placed wherever the rider wants to when they’re finished? Should helmets be required?”

Evelyn Parsons, of Rock Hill, said she, like others, relies on her electric bike for travel and is concerned she would no longer be able to use it.

“We really like our e-bikes,” Parsons said. “They have a big purpose for us. We both have medical problems and they give us the mobility that we don’t want to lose.”

Youngblood said the prohibitions would apply only to companies wanting to rent out the electric scooters and bikes in Rock Hill. She said individuals who own the vehicles still would be allowed to ride them in the city. She said she will amend the ordinance language to clarify that.

The council will hold a public hearing about the pending ordinance and consider it for final reading on August 26.

Columbia enacted a one-year moratorium to study the same issue. Greenville and Charleston prohibit the scooters and bikes, Youngblood said. She said Charlotte allows the vehicles with some regulations as part of a pilot program.

Youngblood estimates it would take about five to six months for the staff to complete its study.

But Mayor John Gettys said he hopes to finish the study sooner.

“I would just point out that we’ve got a sports and events center opening in a month or so,” Gettys said. “So we would want to sort of track with that and know all that’s going on — just in my opinion and that’s why I ask about how quickly we can do it.”

The pending ordinance also would ban party bicycles or “pedal pubs”, a multiple-passenger human powered vehicle, which is typically used to transport riders to different bars and breweries.

Youngblood said planning and development staff also received an inquiry this summer from someone wanting to start a party bicycles business in the city.

According to the ordinance, party bicycles have injured riders. And in one instance, a pedal pub crash in Minneapolis left 12 people injured, four seriously, when a motor vehicle rear-ended the bicycle, which caused it to tip over and pin down riders.

“The pending ordinance essentially allows us, if we have someone with an application tomorrow walk in the door,” Youngblood said. “Then we can treat it as though it’s already in effect and say, ‘No’ until we study it.”

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