Scoot­ers in Fort Laud­erdale at­tract rid­ers, fans and crit­ics

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - Local - By Aure­lio Moreno South Florida Sun Sen­tinel

Like igua­nas, elec­tric scoot­ers are in­vad­ing Fort Laud­erdale.

It's the new trend in trans­porta­tion and fun along the beach. The con­cept is sim­ple: You get on an elec­tric scooter, you ride around, you have fun, and when you fin­ish, you leave it al­most any­where you want.

The Dock­less Bike Share and Scooter Share, also known as the Dock­less Mo­bil­ity Pro­gram, is the new shared mo­bil­ity pro­gram that al­lows users to un­lock, rent and ride bi­cy­cles, elec­tric bi­cy­cles and elec­tric scoot­ers from vir­tu­ally any­where by us­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion on smart­phones.

"The mo­bil­ity per­mit pro­gram is de­signed to pro­vide res­i­dents and vis­i­tors with a fast and con­ve­nient al­ter­na­tive trans­porta­tion op­tion to travel around the city with­out hav­ing to use a car," said Dayana Díaz, se­nior strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist for Fort Laud­erdale. "It's an­other way to im­prove mo­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity by tak­ing tra­di­tional ve­hi­cles out of the streets for short trips.”

Cus­tomers use a smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tion to lo­cate and activate a scooter. For ex­am­ple, with a Lime-S scooter, it costs $1 to un- lock the de­vice and 15 cents per minute of use. A half-hour ride is about $7.50.

Since Nov. 2, when the first scoot­ers rolled in Fort Laud­erdale, more than 40,000 in­di­vid­ual trips have been recorded, mainly on the beach and down­town, Diaz said.

"As with any new com­pany, there is an ad­just­ment pe­riod in­volved. In ad­di­tion to the pos­i­tive com­ments, we have re­ceived ques­tions about safety and the rules that ap­ply to the use of scoot­ers," Diaz said.

The ve­hi­cles can reach a dis­tance of up to 37 miles and a max­i­mum speed of 14.8 mph. They work with a 250 watt mo­tor. The driver must be at least 18 years of age and have a driver's li­cense to use the scooter.

"They are eco­nom­i­cal and help you get from one place to an­other very quickly," said Chelsea Smith, 22, also of Fort Laud­erdale and fan of the elec­tric scoot­ers.

"It's af­ford­able. You do not pol­lute the air with car­bon diox­ide and ev­ery­thing re­lated to au­to­mo­biles. It's pure fun. Hon­estly, I feel like a child again, it's great.”

All around town

When you fin­ish us­ing a scooter you can leave it parked any­where, as long as it does not block a side­walk or in front of the store en­trances.

When the scoot­ers run out of power they are picked up, recharged and re­turned to the streets.

"It's fun; you can go for a ride and get some fresh air," city res­i­dent Matt Deso, 24, said af­ter us­ing a scooter along the beach in Fort Laud­erdale. "Ba­si­cally, you scan it to un­lock it and use it as long as you want."

Three com­pa­nies — Bird, Bolt and Lime — cur­rently of­fer the ser­vice, which is reg­u­lated by the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Mo­bil­ity of the city of Fort Laud­erdale. Each com­pany has an ap­proved fleet of up to 500 de­vices.

To use the scoot­ers, Lime and Bird users must down­load the cell­phone app for the com­pany that owns the ve­hi­cle. Af­ter us­ing the scoot­ers, they should be left in a place that does not block the pub­lic road (such as ramps, park­ing lots, build­ing en­trances, hy­drants, etc.). To close the ses­sion, the rider must take a photo of the parked scooter. Providers can then re- view pho­tos and rate how well the de­vice is parked. If a user re­ceives nu­mer­ous low scores, he can be ex­cluded from the ap­pli­ca­tion.

Bolt is also study­ing how to in­cor­po­rate this fea­ture into its ap­pli­ca­tion, the spokes­woman said.

Trial run

Not ev­ery­one is happy with the ve­hi­cles, which were first used in the Wyn­wood neigh­bor­hood of Mi­ami and then dis­banded when the city said they had vi­o­lated Florida law.

In mid-Oc­to­ber, the Mi­ami City Com­mis­sion voted to al­low scoot­ers for a oneyear trial pe­riod.

Jo Ann Medalie, a Fort Laud­erdale res­i­dent, com­plained in a se­ries of e-mails ad­dressed to com­mu­nity lead­ers about what she con­sid­ers "a dis­trac­tion and a prob­lem" with the pro­lif­er­a­tion of scoot­ers, some­thing she says oc­curs with­out a clear es­tab­lished reg­u­la­tion.

"No doubt it is nec­es­sary to es­tab­lish rules. Un­for­tu­nately, there is no law on the use of hel­mets in Florida,” she said. “By the way, I just drove from Sun­rise Boule­vard to my home on Har­bor Drive, and I saw about a dozen scoot­ers. One per­son wore a hel­met, and most buzzed on the side­walk at full speed.”

Medalie, who calls her­self a beach mon­i­tor, be­lieves that driv­ing a scooter at 15 miles per hour on a side­walk filled with pedes­tri­ans can be dan­ger­ous. And even more so when the driver may be un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol and at night.

"This is not a good mix, no mat­ter how you judge it," she adds.

Diaz, the Fort Laud­erdale city spe­cial­ist, re­sponds that the use of hel­mets is part of the safety rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded in a brochure that users should read.

"Each of the three scooter ser­vice providers also has safety in­for­ma­tion avail­able in their ap­pli­ca­tion,” she said. “In ad­di­tion to al­ways en­cour­ag­ing the use of the hel­met, we ad­vise that pas­sen­gers obey traf­fic laws, travel in­di­vid­u­ally and never drink [al­co­hol] while driv­ing. "

Chris Lagerbloom, as­sis­tant ad­min­is­tra­tor for Fort Laud­erdale, replied in an email that the City Com­mis­sion has been dis­cussing the is­sue of scooter safety for months.

City com­mis­sioner Steven Glass­man said that "we are def­i­nitely mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion."

Where to ride

In ad­di­tion to Fort Laud­erdale, Lime also cur­rently op­er­ates in South Mi­ami, Mi­ami Springs, Mi­ami Lakes, Mi­ami Shores, North Bay Vil­lage, North Mi­ami, Key Bis­cayne and some univer­si­ties such as Barry, John­son & Wales and St. Thomas.

"We have fo­cused on ed­u­cat­ing neigh­bors, many of whom are be­ing ex­posed to this means of trans­port for the first time. The city will con­tinue to work with au­tho­rized op­er­a­tors as nec­es­sary to make im­prove­ments, ad­dress ar­eas of con­cern and ed­u­cate users," Díaz said.

Other cities in the coun­try are deal­ing with the way to reg­u­late the de­vices, of­fered as a so­lu­tion for short­dis­tance trans­port in ur­ban cen­ters.

Re­cently, San Fran­cisco de­cided to re­turn to scoot­ers af­ter ban­ning them on city streets, but it al­lowed only two small busi­nesses to op­er­ate fleets un­der a pi­lot pro­gram. New York and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., are also ex­am­in­ing pi­lot pro­grams.

"It's a new form of trans­porta­tion. I like it. I only use it to have fun. I think it's a great idea. It's much bet­ter than just sit­ting or just walk­ing on the beach," said Aaron Bradley as he tried to un­lock a scooter on A1A.

"Peo­ple want to go out and do things, and it's not ex­pen­sive. To rent a Jet Ski you need al­most $ 100."

If you have ques­tions about the Dock­less Mo­bil­ity Pro­gram con­tact the Trans­porta­tion Di­vi­sion at 954-828-4TAM (4826) or write to dock­less­mo­bil­[email protected]­laud­erdale.gov.

South Florida Sun Sen­tinel staff writer Brit­tany Wall­man con­trib­uted to this re­port.

AURE­LIO MORENO/EL SEN­TINEL PHO­TOS

The Dock­less Bike Share and Scooter Share is the new shared mo­bil­ity pro­gram that al­lows users to un­lock, rent and ride from vir­tu­ally any­where by us­ing a smart­phone app.

When the scoot­ers run out of power they are picked up, recharged and re­turned to the streets.

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