Scooters went where they shouldn’t more than 1,150 times, Tampa report says

Four companies vying to serve the city logged about 600,000 trips since the test program started Memorial Day weekend.
This one is parked, but rental scooters in downtown Tampa are prohibited along the Riverwalk.
This one is parked, but rental scooters in downtown Tampa are prohibited along the Riverwalk. [ CHRIS URSO | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Nov. 24, 2019

TAMPA — By most accounts, Tampa’s scooter-share pilot program has enjoyed a successful first six months.

People have used smartphone apps to unlock about 600,000 trips on the newest transportation fad to hit Tampa Bay. Riders have traveled nearly 700,000 miles through Tampa’s downtown.

Four companies — Bird, Jump, Lime and Spin — launched service in May, agreeing to a set of guidelines and restrictions drafted by city of Tampa staff. Scooters must start each day in designated corrals. Each company can deploy a maximum of 600 a day. And people are banned from riding them on some of Tampa’s most popular walkways — Bayshore Boulevard, the Riverwalk and Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.

But compliance with the no-ride zones has varied among the four providers.

In all, people rode scooters in prohibited areas more than 1,150 times in September and October, according to data provided by the city. That’s less than 1 percent of the total rides during those two months.

And Lime is the greatest offender, accounting for 425 violations. At the other end of the scale, Spin logged 75 violations.

“We’re doing what’s expected of us," Spin regional manager Nabil Syed said. “It sounds like an over simplification, but it’s not rocket science in terms of what the city expects for each of the vendors to do to help enforce riding in the right areas and prohibiting riding in areas where users shouldn’t be.”

Neither company would disclose how many scooters they send out on an average day.

The Riverwalk saw the greatest number of offenses, accounting for two-thirds of them during the two-month period.

“When they’re riding there, they almost run me over,” said Rachel Braddock, 23, who runs along the Riverwalk and Bayshore five times a week. “I’m glad these areas are free of them.”

Braddock isn’t anti-scooter, nor are many of the other runners who spoke with the Tampa Bay Times. But some of Tampa’s most popular running paths and major pedestrian walkways are overcrowded as is, Scott Roberts, 29, said.

“I support scooters in general,” Roberts said. “I think they’re a good amenity. But the less congestion we could see on these popular pedestrian paths, the better.”

Some scooter users wish they could use the new option to zip around other parts of Tampa.

Collin Sherwin, 42, has used scooters since he came to Tampa, for fun and commuting. On a recent trip, he tried to get onto Bayshore from Davis Islands and his Jump scooter, sensing the violation, slowed to a crawl. Sherwin could only travel 2 mph until he left the restricted area.

Spin, Jump and Lime cut power to their scooters once a rider enters a forbidden area. The scooter will still move, but it goes so slowly the rider has to turn back or hop off and walk it away.

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“The safer solution is to reduce the speed so much that riders acknowledge something has changed on the device and they will get off,” Lime Florida General Manager Uhriel Bedoya said.

Spin takes that a step further, with a recording that tells riders they’re out of bounds.

“I don’t know how we found the most annoying voice to do it, but it very annoyingly and very loudly tells you you’re not allowed to be there, which riders don’t like and we know that," Syed said.

The fitness path along Bayshore is even narrower than the Riverwalk, Sherwin said, but he’d still like to see scooters allowed there.

“People on Bayshore are either running or biking already, so it flows much better,” Sherwin said. “When I’m on the Riverwalk on my bike, I’m constantly dodging meandering tourists.”

Dr. Abraham Marcadis, 65, of South Tampa, disagrees. Marcadis has run or walked along Bayshore two or three times a week for the last 30 years.

He believes scooters and bicycles are a danger to anyone who wants to walk and enjoy the path. He said he’s had people almost hit him as they come by then turn and complain that he was in their way.

“It’s gotten impossible, it really has," Marcadis said. "Keeping it safe. Keeping it orderly. There are no rules. ... It truly is becoming a big problem for us.”