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Pirates on wheels: What you need to know about scooters at Gasparilla

One company decided to pull its scooters Jan. 25 ‘out of an abundance of caution for riders and those participating in Gasparilla.’
A scooter rider navigates Platt Street on Friday morning during the calm before the storm — successive weekends of downtown Gasparilla parades. Scooter companies like Jump warn users it’s a violation of their rental agreement to operate one while under the influence. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
A scooter rider navigates Platt Street on Friday morning during the calm before the storm — successive weekends of downtown Gasparilla parades. Scooter companies like Jump warn users it’s a violation of their rental agreement to operate one while under the influence. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Jan. 17
Updated Jan. 17

TAMPA — One thing you don’t want to see at the Gasparilla parade: pirates zipping by on scooters with a drink in one hand and a flintlock in the other.

But just as sure as they’ll be reveling on boats and floats, pirates will be riding scooters in some fashion. The city of Tampa plans to allow scooter companies to operate rentals Saturday, Jan. 25, during the Gasparilla parade.

There’s a special added restriction this day: The no-ride zone will be expanded to include several blocks around the parade route. Scooters already are banned from the Riverwalk and Bayshore Boulevard.

Related: What you need to know about the Gasparilla children's parade

Officials are concerned about clutter, safety and alcohol consumption, but decided against banning scooter use, Tampa transportation director Jean Duncan said.

“We’ve never had scooters around during Gasparilla before, so it’s sort of an experiment, so to speak,” Duncan said. “We want to have as many multi-modal options for people as possible.”

Related: Think Gasparilla is rowdy now? 50 years ago, guns were everywhere.

Getting to the parade site — and then moving around once you’re there — can be a logistical nightmare. Roads are closed. Parking is scarce. The cost of a ride with Uber and Lyft rises with demand.

These factors helped make the case to allow scooters and other modes of transportation so people can choose to ditch their cars. And Tampa has shown a clear appetite for this newest of transportation fads: People have logged more than 818,000 trips on scooters during the first seven months of a city pilot program.

But scooters at Gasparilla present unique concerns. People will drop their rental rides along already crowded paths crammed with bead-catchers and partygoers. And the event’s open-container policy allows alcohol along the parade route.

“The population that tends to use these is likely the population that will be drinking and partying,” Duncan said.

Scooter companies, like Jump, warn users that it’s a violation of the rental agreement to operate a scooter while under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

“If you had a few drinks, let someone else be the captain of the ship by requesting an Uber,” said Javi Correoso, spokesman for Jump, which is owned by Uber.

Related: Dave Bautista, Marvel’s ‘Drax,’ joins Tampa officer to lead Gasparilla parade

Bird decided to pull its scooters off the streets for the event and will not operate Jan. 25. The company has adjusted its operations in other cities during large special events like parades, concerts and festivals.

“Safety is our number one priority at Bird and out of an abundance of caution for riders and those participating in Gasparilla, we won’t be operating,” a statement from Bird said.

The city plans to test its event protocol for scooters during the Gasparilla children’s parade on Saturday. The extended no-ride zone will be in effect, banning scooters from Bayshore Boulevard to the Selmon Expressway south of Morrison Avenue. From Morrison, the no-ride zone zig-zags north-east to downtown, with Cass Street, Florida Avenue and the water as boundaries.

A scooter rider navigates Platt Street on Friday morning during the calm before the storm — successive weekends of downtown Gasparilla parades. Scooter companies like Jump warn users it’s a violation of their rental agreement to operate one while under the influence. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

City staff will use Saturday’s experience to decide whether to adjust the rules or the no-ride zone for the main parade the following Saturday.

Because so many people attend the parade, the city is concerned about scooter batteries dying mid-day and users abandoning them in crowded areas. And companies might not be able to pick up the dead scooters until after the event because of road closures.

Related: Scooters went where they shouldn't have more than 1,150 times

The added clutter could lead to accidents, or at least annoyed visitors. Scooter companies are trying to avoid that.

“We will be operating with an increased reserve of scooters, charging capacity and staff in order to replace drained scooters with freshly charged ones promptly,” Correoso said.

Spin said its workforce “will constantly be rebalancing and redeploying scooters” during the event to ensure riders have access to charged scooters.

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