City issues interim guidelines for electric scooter companies and riders

City: Written agreement now required

CINCINNATI -- The city of Cincinnati is getting ahead of potential safety concerns associated with rentable electric scooters that popped up Downtown and in Over-the-Rhine.

WCPO first noticed dozens of Bird brand electric scooters positioned at multiple locations the morning of July 26. They’re available to rent using a mobile app starting at $1.

Unlike the Cincinnati Red Bike program, there are no docking stations for the electric scooters. Instead, riders park the scooters around town on sidewalks -- a concern that forced some cities to enforce new rules or ban the electric scooters altogether.

In a memo to the mayor and members of Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday, Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney outlined interim guidelines for e-scooter companies and riders as the city develops a long-term playbook.

The temporary guidelines apply to all “shared active transportation” operations which include any network of small vehicles placed in a public right-of-way, according to the memo.

In an effort to oversee e-scooter operations, the city will enforce these general conditions for companies:

  • There must be a written agreement to operate in the city of Cincinnati.
  • An e-scooter company can operate with a provisional agreement for up to 60 days and must meet the city’s insurance requirement.
  • The company cannot operate more than 100 small vehicles at a time without city authorization.
  • A 24/7 customer service line must be shared with local management and operation teams.

There are rules for riders to follow as well:

  • Riding in small vehicles like e-scooters is prohibited on pedestrian sidewalks, but riding on multi-use paths is allowed.
  • Riders must obey all traffic laws.
  • Only one person is allowed on an e-scooter at a time.
  • An e-scooter must be parked on the sidewalk where it does not block sidewalk traffic.

According to the interim guidelines, the mobile app must also warn users to wear a helmet and ride in the street.

The Cincinnati Department of Transportation and Engineering and city leaders will evaluate the pilot program and make recommendations for a comprehensive plan.

According to the Bird app, helmets are required, along with a valid driver's license.

The mobile app accepts credit cards and will ask to scan the rider's license before unlocking the scooter. It also reminds riders several times throughout the process to park the scooters out of the public right-of-way.

It recommends parking on the sidewalk near the curb, facing the street, near signposts, bike racks, trees or other on-street infrastructure.

According to Bird's website, Cincinnati is the company's 17th city, and its first in Ohio.

WCPO transportation reporter Pat LaFleur contributed to this report.

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