Transportation Commission proposes pilot study for electric scooter rentals; two companies requesting to bring them to Lawrence

photo by: VeoRide

A VeoRide electric scooter is pictured in this promotional photo from the company.

Before any companies are allowed to bring rentable electric scooters to the streets of Lawrence, the city’s Transportation Commission wants a pilot study to be conducted.

Two companies have already requested permission to bring scooter rental businesses to Lawrence, and the Transportation Commission voted during its meeting this week to create a subcommittee to develop a pilot program to test out scooters. Transportation Commission Chair Steve Evans told the Journal-World that the safety of the electric scooters, or “e-scooters,” would be a key concern for the subcommittee when recommending rules for the pilot study.

“What we don’t want to do is just throw 50 e-scooters on the streets and see what happens,” Evans said. “We need to know what does this pilot study look like, who is engaged in it and what will be the rules for the pilot study.”

More specifically, Evans said the subcommittee would consider potential speed limits for scooters and where people should be allowed to park and ride them during the pilot. He said that would include deciding whether the scooters should be allowed on city streets, sidewalks, bike lanes and shared-use paths.

State law prohibits people from riding an e-scooter on any interstate highway, federal highway, or state highway and allows city and county governments to adopt ordinances restricting or prohibiting the use of e-scooters on streets or sidewalks, according to a city staff memo to the Transportation Commission. Cities also become involved because companies that rent bikes, motorized bikes or scooters must make right-of-way agreements with cities for parking the vehicles.

VeoRide Inc. is requesting that the city allow it to rent out 150 scooters and permit its customers to park bikes and scooters in places other than currently designated bike racks. In addition, the company is asking the city to accept VeoRide as the “exclusive vendor” in Lawrence. VeoRide made its request in June, and the company Bird has also requested to bring scooters to Lawrence since then, according to the memo.

If the city adopts an ordinance to permit scooters, city staff lists several additional factors to consider. Those include whether scooters should be allowed downtown, have age restrictions, require the use of helmets or have time-of-day restrictions. In addition, staff states that the city should consider whether it wants to solicit proposals to select one vendor for all bike and scooter sharing.

Currently, VeoRide is the only such company operating in Lawrence. VeoRide rents both motorized and nonmotorized bicycles, and customers are required to park the bikes in specified areas on city right-of-way or else pay additional fees. The company initially began operating only on the University of Kansas campus, but last summer the City Commission approved an agreement to allow the company to add about 20 locations on city right-of-way where customers can park a bike. VeoRide is now asking that specific parking locations be only “recommended” instead of required, citing a desire to make using the service simpler for its customers. VeoRide states that its staff will continue to pick up vehicles parked in undesired locations.

Evans said the first meeting of the scooter subcommittee will occur next week, and the hope is to have recommendations for the pilot program completed within the next couple of months. Any recommendations from the Transportation Commission will be sent to the City Commission for consideration.

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