PITTSBURG — At various events in recent weeks the City of Pittsburg has been offering test rides on electric scooters that may soon become available to rent from the company VeoRide for short trips around town. At Tuesday’s city commission meeting, commissioners and city staff discussed some of the pros and cons of approving an ordinance to regulate use of the scooters.
“If a pedestrian or someone else is injured by the rider of this, does the person injured have the right to sue this company, the individual driving it, the City of Pittsburg?” asked Mayor Patrick O’Bryan.
Deputy City Manager Jay Byers said any lawyer will tell you that anyone can sue anyone else for anything.
“But in general there’s a disclaimer when you sign up to drive these that you’ll be responsible for what happens, so it’s the rider’s responsibility,” Byers said.
City Manager Daron Hall said one of the main reasons to pass an ordinance was to make sure the companies that provide the scooters and service them are registered and have insurance.
VeoRide already has a presence in Pittsburg, offering bicycle rentals on the Pittsburg State University campus. The company’s scooters are similarly expected to be used largely by PSU students, although city officials have discussed also allowing their use downtown at least as far as the area near Block22 just north of 4th Street and Broadway. One feature of the scooters that city officials have promoted is that they can be “geo-fenced,” or electronically blocked from leaving a designated area.
Commissioner Chuck Munsell said he wanted more information on potential problems with the scooters that other cities may have had, including injuries. Munsell said statistical data and other information could be helpful in making a decision about an ordinance regulating the vehicles.
Commissioner Sarah Chenoweth said information on the scooters’ environmental impact — which she said would likely be mostly information about their environmental benefits because they are electric — would also be helpful. Chenoweth said her biggest concern about the scooters, however, was what the police department thought of them.
Pittsburg Police Lt. Ben Henderson explained the police department’s perspective.
“Generally we do have some concerns about potential safety issues with this, and we’re kind of concerned about how the enforcement of this may come out,” Henderson said. “This is a new venture for the city though and we’re, you know, kind of looking forward to the opportunity to work with city leadership to go on this venture, you know, make this a viable option for the City of Pittsburg.”
James Cox, and administrative intern with the city who has been working on the potential ordinance regulating the scooters, said one benefit of the scooters would be that the city could track their locations to look for patterns of how they’re used to make better plans for placement of things such as sidewalks and bike paths.
The scooters actually do have a tail light, as well as a light underneath the scooter that gives off a blue glow that would be visible at night, Byers said, but they don’t have turn signals.
“I’m just having a hard time picturing how a scooter would integrate with traffic downtown safely,” Commissioner Dawn McNay said.
City staff said they would try to get answers to commissioners’ questions and bring back more information on the city’s options at the next commission meeting.