DPD to focus on education with new scooter ordinance

E-scooter riders must use bike lanes or streets instead of sidewalks

Joe Carabello
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 10/4/19

The Denver Police Department’s traffic enforcement division is currently approaching electric scooter riders with an agenda of education and training. Since the unexpected introduction of rental …

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DPD to focus on education with new scooter ordinance

E-scooter riders must use bike lanes or streets instead of sidewalks

Posted

The Denver Police Department’s traffic enforcement division is currently approaching electric scooter riders with an agenda of education and training.

Since the unexpected introduction of rental scooters in Denver during the spring of 2018, Denver Public Works has struggled to create an ordinance governing the safe and practical use of electric mobility devices — commonly referred to as scooters or e-scooters.

“We are not approaching this issue from a punitive perspective,” said Sonny Jackson, director of communications for the Denver Police Department. Jackson said there was not a designated time frame for implementing the new policy, but he expected it would last several months.

Including Lime and Bird fleets of 550 each, there are approximately 2,703 licensed scooters in Denver,according to Denver Public Works. Electric rental bicycles are not included in this count, nor have they created the safety issues associated with scooters.

The current ordinance, which was passed by the Denver City Council on Aug. 27, bans scooters from sidewalks, with the exceptions of starting a ride, ending a ride to park the scooter and where speed limits are greater than 30 MPH. These exceptions limit sidewalk speed to 6 MPH. Scooters are banned in certain pedestrian zones like the 16th Street Mall, Union Station and close proximity to Coors Field on game days.

The average number of times a scooter is unlocked for riding is more than 6,700 per day, with an average distance of 1.3 miles per ride, according to data from Public Works.

Since the time e-scooters were mobilized on Denver streets during the spring of 2018, DPD has issued 56 citations under the category of non criminal/non traffic designations. Scooter citations involving automobiles are filed under a different chapter of Denver’s traffic ordinance. Citations written in District 6, which includes Washington Park, University of Denver and Virginia Village, accounted for 33 such citations. District 1 had seven citations and District 2 had 10.

Safety and congestion on sidewalks are the two most frequent complaints about scooters from Denver citizens according to Nancy Kuhn, communications director for the Denver Public Works.

Since the scooters were a new phenomenon when they arrived in Denver last year, they fell under an ordinance classification for “toy vehicles,” requiring use on sidewalks. After several months of chaos and confusion by riders, citizens and city officials, Denver Public Works notified Lime and Bird, the first two companies introducing scooters in Denver, to suspend operations until regulations could be revised.

City Council approved the revised ordinance in a unanimous vote in July 2018, referring to the ordinance as a one-year pilot program effective August 1.

Lime, Bird and subsequent providers Lyft, Spin and Razor did not respond to requests for comment on Denver’s scooter policies.

After the pilot program launched, there was more congestion and concern, particularly regarding pedestrian safety. The revised ordinance stipulated sidewalks as the legal median for scooters. Denver Public Works subsequently revised the ordinance when the pilot program expired in August of this year, having witnessed an increase in accidents and complaints about scooters on sidewalks.

“This is an extremely difficult ordinance to enforce,” said District 6 Councilman Paul Kashmann.

He added that it’s hard for officers who can’t possibly oversee all of the streets where scooters roam, including intensive use in Washington Park. Kashmann said his constituents are relatively evenly divided among those who favor, object or are neutral in their opinions about scooters in their neighborhoods.

Cyndi Karvaski, spokesperson for Denver Parks and Recreation, anticipates a trial period of up to six months to determine the scooters best and safest use in the parks. Parks and Recreation will also focus on educating riders with tools like signage and park ranger interactions with riders.

Doug Schepman, DPD Media Relations spokesperson, wrote in an email that the department is focusing on educating the public first.

“DPD is first focused on providing training to officers on proper enforcement of the new ordinance,” he wrote. “In these early stages of implementation, officers will continue focusing on educating riders they contact regarding safe and legal operation before phasing in citations.”

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