I attempted to send this letter to these worthies, via Mayor Hogsett’s Facebook message page, and Blake Johnson’s IndyGov email. I’m not sure whether it actually got through to them, so I’m posting it here as well.
Dear Mayor Joseph Hogsett and Councilman Blake Johnson:
I am writing regarding the Bird and Lime scooters that have come to Indianapolis over the last couple of weeks, and the legislation you have proposed to deal with them. I believe that these scooters can be good for Indianapolis, and would ask that you keep these points in mind when considering the legislation.
First and foremost, these scooters are a great complement to the other available transportation options in Indianapolis. One of the best things about Indianapolis is that we’re a forward-thinking city when it comes to public transportation. Not only do we have a decent bus line (and soon, high-speed transit options), we’ve also got a docked bike sharing system and an electric car rental program like few other places in the world. These scooters help to fill in the gaps, providing an economical, fast, and fun way for people to get from place to place that will be very helpful to attendees of Gen Con, NCAA, the Indianapolis 500, and the myriad other conventions and events Indianapolis hosts every year.
Second, these scooters are bringing money into Indianapolis. Since the scooter companies pay people $5 to $7 or more per scooter to charge them overnight and release them into the community, they’re providing a source of additional revenue that will flow into the local economy. I’m a Lime “Juicer” myself, and have made $82 (minus transportation expenses) charging their scooters so far. (I was even featured on the local news for it.) Allowing these companies to continue operating allows people like me to keep earning a little extra money.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen many people enjoying our city on these scooters, and I’ve taken several fun rides on them myself. I think that banning them outright would be a mistake, but I think it might also be a mistake to impose a cap on the number of scooters permitted in town. I’m in favor of letting market forces decide that. Scooters that go unused will cost the companies more in upkeep than they take in, and so will be eliminated.
Limiting the number of scooters also limits the opportunities for chargers and juicers to earn money. I’m afraid that it will also encourage the scooter companies to concentrate their limited number of scooters in densely populated areas like Mile Square and Broadripple, where they can earn the most per capita—and keep them out of less dense areas like Irvington where I live, where people might actually find them more useful because everything’s so much farther apart out here.
If you do decide to cap the numbers, I would ask that you impose caps on a per-neighborhood or per-district basis, so that the companies would have greater incentive to place scooter “nests” or “hubs” all over the city, not just in densely populated areas.
Now, I would support legislation aimed at defining where these scooters are allowed to be parked, and requiring the dockless rideshare companies to impose punitive measures on users who park carelessly. (The companies are able to tell which users are following these guidelines, since both of them require users to snap a photo detailing where they left the scooter to close out their ride.) I believe that would go a long way toward solving the “street litter” problem that other communities have dealt with.
Then there’s the matter of where riders are permitted to operate the scooters. I note that Sec. 431-603 of the city code permits cyclists to ride on sidewalks and greenways, provided that “The bicycle shall not be operated at a speed, or in any manner, which constitutes a threat to the safety of either the bicycle operator or other persons, or diminishes or impairs the free use of the sidewalk or greenway by other persons.” This is a considerably more permissive law than most places have, as riding on the sidewalk is illegal in most areas.
As it now stands, it is not legal to operate these electric scooters on sidewalks; however, a bicycle could cause considerably more harm in a pedestrian collision because any reasonably fit person could get a bicycle going much faster than these scooters, which are capped at 15 to 20 miles per hour at most. So why not amend the law to permit scooters to ride on the sidewalk, as long as they follow the same rules bicyclists have to operate under? This would give scooter operators the ability to ride legally on sidewalks and greenways, rather than putting themselves and motor vehicle operators at risk of collision riding on the streets.
I strongly encourage you to find a middle ground that permits these dockless rideshare companies to continue operating, and gives them incentives to expand to less populated areas such as Irvington. If you have any questions about the opinions I’ve expressed here, please contact me.
Thanks for listening.
Christopher E. Meadows
(contact information redacted)