Crit­i­cal in­jury reignites rental scooter de­bate

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Front Page - By Tonya Alanez

It’s all fun and games un­til some­one gets hurt. That is the maxim that crit­ics are ap­ply­ing to Fort Laud­erdale’s fledg­ling es­cooter rental pro­gram.

A hit-and-run that left a 14-year-old scooter-rid­ing boy in crit­i­cal con­di­tion over the week­end has reignited the love­hate, pro-con de­bate about the fleet of elec­tric rentals that swooped into town Nov. 1.

Some say the scoot­ers are haz­ards, a men­ace and a dan­ger as they reck­lessly zigzag through traf­fic and speed along side­walks. Oth­ers say they’re awe­some, a great idea, af­ford­able and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly.

Riders are sup­posed to be 18 or older but that clearly wasn’t the case with the week­end crash vic­tim.

How­ever, city of­fi­cials say they want to give the new pro­gram some time be­fore re­vis­it­ing reg­u­la­tions early next year.

Scoot­ers are rented via a smart­phone app. With a Lime-S scooter, the cost is $1 to un­lock it

and 15 cents for each minute of use. A half-hour ride costs about $7.50. They go up to 15 mph and run on a 250-watt mo­tor.

“Not only ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen. It is law­suit against the city wait­ing to hap­pen,” Jim Mor­lock, of Fort Laud­erdale, warned city of­fi­cials in an email sent Mon­day.

The in­jured boy was rid­ing a rented Lime scooter near down­town on Fed­eral High­way when he was hit by a car, pos­si­bly a ma­roon Acura, that left the scene early Satur­day au­thor­i­ties said.

The hit-and-run was re­ported at 3:28 a.m. Satur­day. The boy was in crit­i­cal con­di­tion with “mul­ti­ple frac­tures and a head in­jury” when he was taken to the hos­pi­tal where he re­mained Wed­nes­day, said Bat­tal­ion Chief Stephen Gol­lan spokesman for Fort Laud­erdale Fire Res­cue.

“No up­dates to re­port,” a Fort Laud­erdale po­lice spokes­woman said Wed­nes­day.

Lime, Bird and Bolt are the three com­pa­nies that be­gan one-year agree­ments with the city on Nov. 1.

“The City Com­mis­sion plans to eval­u­ate the dock­less mo­bil­ity per­mit pro­gram in greater de­tail in Fe­bru­ary,” said Chaz Adams, spokesman for the city. “In the mean­time, we con­tinue to work with the per­mit­ted oper­a­tors to fur­ther ed­u­cate and in­form riders about proper rules and reg­u­la­tions.”

The laun­dry list of com­plaints is lengthy: Riders don’t fol­low rules or wear hel­mets, they’re rid­ing on side­walks and go­ing too fast. Chil­dren are op­er­at­ing them, some riders are clearly in­tox­i­cated and two peo­ple have been seen rid­ing the same scooter.

In its first month, Lime’s fleet of 500 scoot­ers logged 90,000 miles in Fort Laud­erdale with 23,500 in­di­vid­ual trips, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany.

Lo­cal crit­ics and cham­pi­ons have been light­ing up so­cial me­dia since the “scooter in­va­sion” hit. Here’s a sam­pling:

“The side­walks along A1A have be­come a skate park.”

“I used the Lime scoot­ers to get to and from the boat show, they are awe­some!”

“I al­most ran over 2 kids … They went right through the stop sign. These are a men­ace.”

“I see a lot of these around be­ing abused and rid­den reck­lessly by un­der 18 year olds.”

“TRULY are a dan­ger to every­one! Ev­ery day I see at least two peo­ple fall on to A1A. Some are drunk, not pay­ing at­ten­tion and two adults rid­ing on one!”

“The crazi­ness of swerv­ing be­tween mov­ing cars … will get them in­jured and killed. Then who will be blamed? Will it be us the mo­torists?”

“Not only ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen. It is law­suit against the city wait­ing to hap­pen.”

—Jim Mor­lock, of Fort Laud­erdale, in an email to city of­fi­cials about rental scoot­ers

“I saw two Limes on I-95 be­tween Davie and Broward north­bound. Is this al­lowed?”

One man said he hit a pole while rid­ing a rented scooter, flipped and frac­tured his el­bow and in­jured both wrists.

An­other rider said he rented scoot­ers, rather than drive his car, to take 22 trips in the last two weeks to go to Publix, Fresh Mar­ket, the hard­ware store, out to din­ner and the beach. “These scoot­ers are def­i­nitely re­plac­ing car trips, re­duc­ing car con­ges­tion and pol­lu­tion and mak­ing it safer and more pleas­ant to live in down­town Fort Laud­erdale,” he wrote.

When fin­ished rid­ing, scoot­ers can be parked and left any­where. Hope­fully with­out block­ing side­walks, store­fronts or drive­ways. That cour­tesy is not al­ways ad­hered to.

“They are ev­ery­where!! I saw a pile of them strewn on the ground like garbage,” a so­cial me­dia post said.

Adams, the city spokesman, said traf­fic vi­o­la­tions are for the po­lice to en­force and the scooter com­pa­nies are re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing that riders’ rules and reg­u­la­tions are fol­lowed.

As for the 18-or-older rule — it’s ba­si­cally on the honor sys­tem. When a rider signs a user agree­ment they are con­firm­ing that they are old enough to rent the ve­hi­cles, a Lime spokesman said.

The scoot­ers were a topic at a Tues­day af­ter­noon Fort Laud­erdale City Com­mis­sion meet­ing.

Com­mis­sioner Steve Glass­man said he’s hear­ing from peo­ple who walk on the brick pavers along the wave wall at the beach on State Road A1A.

“They’re ner­vous now. They don’t know how to walk. They feel the scoot­ers are all over them,” he said.

The city could con­sider pedes­trian-only zones where scoot­ers aren’t al­lowed, he said. The city could be more ag­gres­sive about en­force­ment, col­lect­ing fines, he added.

Com­mis­sion­ers said they’ll look at how other cities reg­u­late and en­force use of the scoot­ers.

Mi­ami of­fi­cials voted in midOc­to­ber to give scoot­ers a one-year trial run. San Fran­cisco had banned the scoot­ers but re­cently de­cided to give them an­other try. New York and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. are also con­sid­er­ing pi­lot pro­grams.

“I don’t re­ally think we should ban them,” Mayor Dean Tran­talis said. “Peo­ple like them.”

“We’ll find a bal­ance,” Glass­man said.

“And that’s what we’re go­ing to do for the Fe­bru­ary meet­ing,” City Man­ager Lee Feld­man said. “So we’ll have a cou­ple months’ ex­pe­ri­ence, be­cause we only have 30 days [ex­pe­ri­ence so far].”

Mean­while, the hit-and-run driver re­mains at large and the car, pos­si­bly driven by a woman with short brown curly hair, was last seen turn­ing into Hol­i­day Park near Fed­eral High­way and Sun­rise Boule­vard, po­lice said.

The ma­roon sedan likely has wind­shield and front-end dam­age.

“Our thoughts are with the rider in­volved in this tragic in­ci­dent in Fort Laud­erdale and we wish him a speedy re­cov­ery,” said Tay­lor Ben­nett, a spokesman for Lime scoot­ers. “We have also reached out to the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to as­sist in any way we can.”

Staff re­porter Brit­tany Wall­man con­trib­uted to this re­port.

AMY BETH BEN­NETT/SUN SEN­TINEL

Fort Laud­erdale's con­tro­ver­sial new scooter rental pro­gram has some say­ing the elec­tric ve­hi­cles are haz­ards and a men­ace while oth­ers say they're a great idea.

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