The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council is set to introduce an ordinance that would set rules for the use of electric scooters, a move some officials said is needed before companies bring scooter sharing services to the city.
Davis Rhorer, head of the Downtown Development District, said there has been discussions for about a year regarding a scooter ordinance.
“I saw in other cities where other organizations had left scooters on the sidewalks and they became trip hazards,” he said. “We’re looking at ideas on how to organize that.”
The scooter ordinance, which will be introduced Wednesday and taken up for a public hearing on October 28, requires that scooters be used on roads and bike lanes. It caps the number of companies that can offer scooters for rental at two. Scooters cannot be parked on roads and sidewalks in a way that obstructs pedestrian traffic. The scooters also can’t go over 15 miles per hour and riders under the age of 17 must wear a helmet.
Council member Dwight Hudson, one of the sponsors of the ordinance, said the measure “pays respect to all of the different challenges that come with bringing these devices to town.” Hudson said the committee that drew up the ordinance coordinated with LSU and Southern University, to come up with rules that would work if scooter rental services were later established on their campuses.
Several companies have expressed interest in the past about offering scooter service in Baton Rouge, including Gotcha, which has provided a bike sharing service since summer 2019, and Bird, which briefly operated a scooter service in Lafayette. In December 2018, a few Bird scooters popped up in downtown Baton Rouge one day.
The scooter rentals work like the Gotcha bike sharing app. Customers use an app to rent a scooter and pay for it, then return the vehicle after they are finished using it. Crews pick up the scooters in the evening and charge them overnight.
Caroline Passe, a spokeswoman for Gotcha, said the company is still interested in bringing scooter rentals to Baton Rouge and offering the service through its existing app.
Servando Esparza, who serves as Bird's senior manager of government partnerships, said the company commends the Metro Council for developing a scooter ordinance, which will provide another transportation option for residents.
"People need a safe way to get around while maintaining appropriate social distance to take essential trips to their jobs as front line workers, or to deliver food and groceries," he said in a statement. "Local residents are being hit hard by the economic impact of COVID-19 and need a reliable and affordable transportation service, such as e-scooters."
Rhorer said he hadn’t heard from any scooter businesses interested in coming to Baton Rouge since the coronavirus pandemic started. “But I’m glad we have all the wording worked out on the ordinance,” he said.