Summer will bring more tourists, more traffic and more people in bathing suits toting inner tubes near downtown Bend. One thing it won’t bring, at least this year: electric scooters.
Shared electric scooters are a common sight on streets in cities, including Portland, Denver and Los Angeles, and a few companies have approached the city of Bend about starting operations here. After looking into testing them this summer, Assistant City Manager Jon Skidmore told the Bend City Council on Wednesday the city isn’t prepared to bring the scooters to Bend just yet.
“We don’t have the resources set aside to have that kind of oversight,” Skidmore said. “Summer’s two months away. We just started talking about this.”
Electric scooter companies, including Lime and Bird, scatter electric scooters throughout cities.
Users pay a small fee to ride them and leave them wherever they stop using them. Employees, or gig workers, then collect the scooters, charge them and return them to where they started.
Proponents of electric scooters say they fill a crucial gap in public transit — the “last mile” between a bus stop and the front door of a rider’s destination. That’s one reason why electric scooters will most likely come to Bend at some point, Skidmore said.
“E-scooters and other mobility options have some potential to help with congestion and parking,” he said.
Casey Bergh, transportation manager at Oregon State University-Cascades, said the university hopes to see scooters in Bend soon. Students and other young people use them in other cities, he said.
“Our population would really be excited about scooters coming to town,” he said.
Other entities, including the Bend Park & Recreation District and the Old Mill District have more hesitation, Skidmore said. The park district doesn’t currently allow motorized bikes or scooters on its trails, and the Old Mill District doesn’t want electric scooters zooming down its paths.
Neither the park district nor the Old Mill District have completely shut down the scooter discussion, Skidmore said. The scooters would come equipped with technology that would make it possible to slow them down to 5 mph in some areas, compared to the 15 or 20 mph they normally can reach.
With a test program not coming until 2020, the city plans to pass regulations later this month aimed at preventing scooter companies from operating in the city without a permit. Other companies that use city roads, such as construction companies, have to get permits, but current laws don’t specifically mention electric scooter companies.
“I just don’t want them showing up without any regulations,” city Councilor Justin Livingston said.
The new regulations won’t stop individuals from buying electric scooters and riding them in bike lanes or paths that allow them, and they won’t prevent bike shops from renting out scooters.
Councilor Barb Campbell said that was a good approach while establishing a plan for a larger scooter program.
“If somebody wants to have a private business renting out little scooters, they can do that,” Campbell said. “We just can’t have thousands of scooters landing on our city sidewalks in two months.”
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