Advertisement
  1. Opinion

E-scooters: already in Tampa, coming to St. Pete. Are we ready for this?

Sure they’re fun, says Sue Carlton, but there’s been flagrant flaunting of scooter etiquette already.
A Bird electric scooter is seen along the Tampa Riverwalk. Riders are forbidden from riding along the path through downtown. [CHRIS URSO  |  Tampa Bay Times]
A Bird electric scooter is seen along the Tampa Riverwalk. Riders are forbidden from riding along the path through downtown. [CHRIS URSO | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Oct. 27, 2019

This really happened.

I’m driving out of downtown Tampa at that time of day when work is done and people are walking dogs and strolling to dinner. Stopped at the light at Kennedy Boulevard, I see him: a young man riding one of those zippy electric scooters that Tampa is currently trying out, crossing the busy intersection in front of me.

Strapped across his chest as cars whiz past is a baby.

Wait, there’s more.

As I drive home marveling at the insanity I just witnessed, I pass Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, another popular e-scooter spot. There I see another guy rolling along on a scooter with — deja vu all over again — a toddler strapped to his torso.

Sure, because what could possibly go wrong?

Tampa is five months into a one-year pilot program allowing four companies to put scores of rent-by-the-app e-scooters on the streets of downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Super-hip St. Petersburg — which, truth be told, is usually quicker to score these kinds of cool points — has wisely waited and watched Tampa’s roll-out. St. Pete plans its own scooter debut with a one-year tryout starting next year.

Tampa has logged in close to half a million rides already so people clearly like them. I took a spin and no question they add a fun element to a bustling downtown. You see them carrying weekend fun-seekers, college kids, weekday business-lunchers and assorted office workers. They provide a way to go shorter distances without getting in a car and, worse, finding somewhere to park. Around here we need more transportation options, not fewer, and I sincerely hope Tampa finds a way to make e-scooters work long term.

But the trip so far has not been without bumps and bruises, literally and otherwise.

Most obvious is scooter clutter. Riders leave them parked across sidewalks, blocking doorways and strewn in the grass at parks. Scooters are regularly abandoned where they do not belong instead of properly parked in marked corrals. Besides being a safety hazard, it’s not really the look a city strives for.

In Tampa you see e-scooters ridden by children even though you’re required to be at least 16 with a license or learner’s permit. You see them occupied by two and even three people when the rules in the name of basic safety say one. (And don’t even get me started on babies.) Some riders take scooters with impunity on the streets where they are expressly banned — including Ybor City’s busy thoroughfare of Seventh Avenue and the winding waterside Bayshore Boulevard. Just this week, two scooters lapped me on the also-forbidden Riverwalk.

So after Tampa’s pilot program concludes next year, the city council should hold scooter companies who want to do business here accountable.

Already St. Pete has added some smart, tailor-made rules. Given downtown’s outdoor cafes and busy sidewalks, scooters will roll on streets or in bike lanes, not on sidewalks. They won’t be allowed on the city’s waterfront trail (see Tampa’s Riverwalk, above, on that one.) St. Pete plans a 10 p.m. scooter curfew, which might help curb the kind of complaints Tampa has gotten about riders who are clearly intoxicated.

Though I picture clocks striking 10 p.m. and everyone immediately abandoning their scooters where they stand, bringing us right back to the the scourge of scooter clutter.

Hey, when it comes to a city learning to use e-scooters, I’ve seen dumber.


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. Megan Davila, 25, a Child Protection Investigator in training, along with Jacque Salary, 46, a Child Protection Investigator and mentor for almost seven years, pictured with their case files in the family visitation room at the Child Protection Investigation Division of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Investigators are the front line of the foster care system, responsible for sometimes life-or-death decisions about whether to remove a child because of issues like domestic violence and drug use in the home.
  2. The Florida Senate is taking one step forward this year on criminal justice reform – requiring racial and ethnic impact statements for legislation we consider, writes State Sen. Jeff Brandes.
  3. Joey Cousin, a transgender student from Broward county and an opponent of the SB 404, known as the "parental consent" bill, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol. The bill requires girls under the age of 18 get a parent's consent before having an abortion was approved Wednesday in its final committee stop.
  4. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is advocating for a statewide policy of paid family leave for all Floridians.
  5. Pasco County community news
  6. Florida has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]
  7. Our democracy is under unprecedented attack from overseas, but the federal government has been unable or unwilling to protect our campaign-finance system.
  8. Cars sit locked in evening rush hour traffic on Dale Mabry near Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The Hillsborough County Commission will discuss Wednesday whether to prepare a transportation tax for the November ballot now that the fate of the current tax rests with the Florida Supreme Court. [ZACK WITTMAN  |  Times] 
  9. In this Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2004, file photo, Tiffany Carr, executive director of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, left, speaks at a news conference held by Gov. Jeb Bush, background right, to announce a public awareness campaign designed to prevent disaster-related domestic violence, in Tallahassee, Fla. On Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered an investigation into a nonprofit domestic abuse agency whose CEO, Carr, had received $7.5 million in compensation over a three-year span. (AP Photo/Phil Coale, File)
  10. Paula Dockery of Lakeland served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement