Indy considers regulatory ordinance on electric scooter sharing

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — There's some new traffic popping up downtown in the way of electric scooters.

Bird Rides Incorporated just brought the new service to Indianapolis, but there's pushback days after its launch.

"I used to take Uber to work everyday, but now I take this," said Kalvin Jones, 28, pointing to an electric scooter he was getting ready ride Wednesday afternoon on Mass Ave.

"They're perfect. It's a community kind of collective kind of thing. You leave the scooter and then somebody else can use it," said Jones.

Rentals are all arranged by a smart phone app.

The scooters arrived in town last week. The company won't say how many are in the city right now but they're spread over Mass Ave, downtown and Irvington.

When you're done using a scooter, you park it and someone else can pick it up where you left it.

The rules are spelled out right on the scooter. A helmet and license are required. There's no riding on sidewalks or double riding and you must be 18 to use one.

"I think it's just an accident waiting to happen," said Darren Laughlin who lives on Mass Ave. and mostly gets around in a wheelchair.

He said two different scooters ran into him on the same day last week.

"I got the walk light and I'm in the crosswalk and a scooter comes around and hits me in the side of the chair and the guy actually cusses at me," Laughlin recalled.

Then, just a few minutes later, just down the block, it happened again.

"I'm on the sidewalk. I'm on Mass Avenue and another scooter hits me in the back of the chair and he apologizes. He was nice about it," Laughlin said.

"With people walking and going slower than they go, I'm thinking these things are going to be dangerous," he added.

Turns out city leaders have concerns, too.

An Indianapolis city official sent Bird a letter this week, asking them to suspend operations for 30 days while they consider an ordinance that would regulate businesses like it.

"It will be unlawful for a person to operate a dockless bicycle share or hire program on a street, roadway or other city-owned property or rights of way," the proposal says.

Kalvin Jones has a message for the city. "Get over it. It's going to happen anyway."

Company spokesperson Kenneth Baer provided this statement:

Indianapolis is a growing, dynamic city interested in new ways for people to get around without creating congestion and carbon emissions. These goals are complementary to Bird's mission. Following Bird's availability in the city, people have rapidly adopted e-scooters as a new and accessible form of transportation. We look forward to continuing to serve our new Indy riders as we work with city leaders to create a regulatory framework that works best for the people of Indianapolis and helps them meet their goals.

Laughlin says not so fast.

"There needs to be more oversight for these things," he said.

Bird says it's reviewing the city's letter, which also cites "a number of public safety, legal, and regulatory concerns."

The city-county council is set to vote on the ordinance next month.