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Scooter use grows in Tampa, but so do complaints about scooter users

Unidentified scooter riders cross S Hyde Park Avenue while riding along Platt Street in Tampa on Monday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Unidentified scooter riders cross S Hyde Park Avenue while riding along Platt Street in Tampa on Monday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published Jun. 11, 2019

Click here to read this story in Spanish.

TAMPA — Two weeks after the city launched its experiment with allowing electric scooters to swarm sidewalks, the number of scooters is growing but so is the number of complaints.

Four companies now rent scooters to Tampa riders looking for something faster than walking and easier to park than a car. To keep pace with demand, at least two are already expanding into more areas of the city.

Meanwhile, though, city transportation director Jean Duncan said Monday that in addition to praise, the city has heard from residents who don't like the scooters. She said people have complained that scooter users are "zooming too fast" (although they are limited to 15 mph), driving in areas where they are not allowed and dumping their rides wherever they please.

READ MORE: We tried to cross downtown Tampa via scooter. Here's how it went.

One video posted on Twitter over the weekend showed what appeared to be a brawl between scooter riders and a bicyclist. The Twitter user who posted it commented, "These scooters are causing a ruckus in Tampa."

Tampa police investigated the incident, but by the time they arrived at the intersection of Willow Avenue S and Azeele Street, everyone involved had disappeared. "Three white males on scooters were beating up a white male who (was) wearing a bike outfit," their report said.

That appears to be the only incident of its kind reported to police. Chief Brian Dugan says so far he hasn't seen much in the way of problems from the scooter experiment.

"I think they'll be a great addition to our city, as long as we can get people trained on where to drop them off," he said Monday. "We've had complaints about people leaving them in the middle of the sidewalk."

READ MORE: Can't we at least do scooters, people?

There have been no reported accidents yet, he said, "but I'm sure it's just a matter of time." (On Monday morning, a Tampa Bay Times photographer saw a scooter rider very nearly get run over by an Amazon delivery van.)

Still, Dugan said he counts himself as a big fan of the scooters after riding one in Charlotte, N.C., last year with his 17-year-old son: "We had an absolute blast." So far he has not ridden any in Tampa, he said.

The chief said he'd seen the most scooters in use so far Friday night, and expects to see them all over on July 4.

Officials with Lime and Spin, two of the companies supplying scooters in Tampa, say they have employees patrolling the city all day and night to pick up any scooters discarded in the wrong places. They also said they are expanding into new areas of the city as quickly as possible to meet the demand they're seeing.

READ MORE: Scooters have arrived on Tampa sidewalks, and there are 'growing pains'

They also have asked for more "corrals" for parking scooters, Duncan said. That's not something the city had planned on, so now officials are trying to figure out if they are able to — or inclined to — accommodate those requests.

Unlike other cities, where the scooter companies invaded without warning, in Tampa they specifically requested city permission to start their businesses. Tampa has taken its time launching its one-year pilot program, which allows up to 2,400 scooters to operate around town. Riders rent the scooters through an app on their smart phone. There are a few zones where the city has forbidden scooters, including the Riverwalk, Bayshore Boulevard and E Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.

EDITORIAL: Keep an eye on Tampa scooters

Scooter riders also are supposed to stick to sidewalks, and avoid streets and bike paths. But that is likely to change if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs into law a bill sponsored by State Sen. Jeff Brandes and State Rep. Jackie Toledo that allows scooters on streets and bike paths, if local governments approve.

The unanswered question, Duncan said, is whether users in Tampa will begin treating the scooters as something more than a novelty.

"We're hoping it becomes a transportation choice," she said, "rather than a something for entertainment."

Times staff writer Caitlin Johnston contributed to this story. Contact Craig Pittman at craig@tampabay.com or . Follow @craigtimes.

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