St. Petersburg has been smart to take a cautious approach to adding electric scooters to the city’s transportation mix. The extra time has given city officials a better understanding of what’s worked and what hasn’t when other cities, including Tampa, rolled out their rental programs. That should help St. Petersburg avoid — or at least mitigate — a few of the common headaches when its scooter fleet hits the streets later this year.
Any city trying to promote more transportation options and attract millennials understandably feels obligated to give scooters a try. They can help with the “first mile, last mile” challenge of linking residents to other transit options such as buses. They are less work than riding a rental bike, which can make them attractive during the sweaty summer months. But they can cause problems. When the Tampa program launched in May, users rode into banned areas and parked the scooters across sidewalks and entry ways.
St. Petersburg is still crafting its scooter ordinance, but the plan at this point is to keep them off the city’s sidewalks. That makes sense, especially downtown where the sidewalks are often congested with pedestrians.
The city will have to keep a close watch on how well scooter riders interact with drivers and cyclists, and any contract with the scooter companies should include enough wiggle room to make improvements or scuttle the program if it proves too burdensome.