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Regulations on scooters are decided in Columbus

Student walks around campus with a Lime scooter which can be found around campus after Lime and Ohio State partnered together last week. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo Editor

Rental scooters, which have been a big hit among students this semester, will operate under a new set of rules.

The city of Columbus moved forward with new regulations for shared bikes and scooters operating in the city on Tuesday.

“Shared mobility devices present a mobility option that can fill a need in Columbus, if handled appropriately,” Mayor Andrew Ginther told 10TV. “I tasked our Department of Public Service to come up with common-sense guidelines to manage right-of-way concerns as a first step to a thorough and thoughtful plan that works in our city.”

Meanwhile, Ohio State introduced its own campus guidelines for motorized scooters last week.

“During this process, we are reviewing best practices, and consulting with the city of Columbus, with the goal of enhancing both transportation and safety on campus,” university spokesman Dan Hedman said in a statement. “Our safety guidelines closely align with the rules announced today.”

One of the first regulations — a rule that could undercut the business model of many companies offering shared devices — will require a permit to operate in the city.

Many companies in the shared-devices business have made a name nationally by showing up in communities overnight, hoping to win favor with the public before being hit with regulations.

Lime, one of the most popular scooter- and bike-sharing programs, has been in Columbus since July and announced the unveiling of shared bikes and scooters on campus last week. The company has touted a close working relationship with the city and the university, and says it will continue to do so.

“We are aware of the new shared mobility regulations in Columbus and remain committed to working closely with the city, as we have since Day One,” Emma Green, a Lime spokesperson, said. “We look forward to continued collaboration with city leaders and appreciate their diligence in embracing innovative transportation.”

Furthermore, the city will only allow up to eight companies to be operating at a time, with each company allowed to maintain 500 devices, although that number is subject to being increased by the director of public service based on demand.

Other regulations focus on reducing how much shared devices get in the way of the general public.

On this front, devices will not be able to exceed 15 mph, and a number of parking restrictions will be enforced, such as requiring they are left upright and not in vehicle portions of the street.

The regulations state: “They also cannot be parked in doorways, and they cannot block pedestrians on sidewalks or curb ramps, fire escapes, inside bus shelters, in driveways or on unauthorized private property or unapproved non-public spaces.”

In addition, the city will reserve the right to designate parking spaces.

Finally, regulations addressing accessibility for all members of the public were introduced, including educating all riders, being required to provide vehicles to communities outside the Central Business District and providing ways for those without credit cards to use the shared devices.

Green said Lime believes the cap on the number of vehicles allowed could be a problematic restriction, but that the company has already introduced ways to handle regulations on payment.

“We believe a cap of 500 vehicles will inhibit our ability to best serve the entire city but believe our current Lime Access program, with full-scale cash payment and text to unlock functionality for both our bikes and scooters, is a step towards equitable mobility in the Columbus area,” Green said.

Any companies looking to set up shop in Columbus will have to abide by these new rules and the companies already operating in Columbus will have 30 days to come into compliance.

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