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City Now Restricting Scooter Use in the Short North

Brent Warren Brent Warren City Now Restricting Scooter Use in the Short NorthPhoto by Anne Evans.
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A new policy that went into effect yesterday afternoon will restrict the use of scooters in the Short North. Users will not be able to park or ride the rentable devices along North High Street between Goodale Street and Fifth Avenue.

The city’s Department of Public Service, which handles the permitting process for companies that want to place scooters or other “shared mobility devices” on the streets of Columbus, sent a letter to the Short North Alliance yesterday announcing that the new policy would go into effect at 5 p.m.

“The Department of Public Service has had conversations with the Department of Public Safety & the Division of Police on what we could do to support their efforts to curb violent crime in the Short North,” said spokesperson Debbie Briner, in a statement. “The ban will help the police address their concerns about scooters being misused and riders displaying dangerous or illegal behavior. It’s created a public safety risk in this dense urban neighborhood.”

When asked if the new policy was temporary, Briner said that it “is in effect indefinitely.”

As for how the new restrictions will help to curb violent crime in the area, Glenn McEntyre, assistant director of the Department of Public Safety, told CU that “scooters have been used in the commission of crimes, including armed robberies of people walking down the streets.”

He said the impetus for the new rules was “a combination of…dangerous behaviors,” related both to those types of crimes and to the way the scooters are ridden in the neighborhood.

A screenshot of the Lime app showing the no-ride zone along High Street.

The new rules mean that riders can no longer park or accelerate the vehicles on or around High Street.

“The vehicle will not be able to accelerate, effectively ‘coasting’ to continuously slower speeds until that rider exits the zone (and then is able to accelerate again),” said Crew Cypher, head of supply operations for Lime.

It’s not the first time a scooter ban has been put in place by the Division of Police. In the summer of 2020, access to scooters was removed city-wide for over a week after police said that protesters had thrown the devices at officers.

Betsy Pandora, Executive Director of the Short North Alliance, said that she has been hearing lots of concerns about scooters from business owners, residents and visitors, especially as the neighborhood became more busy with the ending of some COVID-related restrictions.

“It’s been pretty consistent over many months, where we’ve heard feedback from community members,” she said, including, “how unsafe people feel as pedestrians walking on High Street, with so many scooters zipping by; that’s feedback that we’ve given to the city, and we’ve participated in any number of community conversations where we’ve heard that feedback delivered to the city directly.”

And, although she acknowledged that “there is a level of concern” about the types of violent crimes described by the Division of Police, “the solution that has been put in place by the city, I think, overwhelmingly really does address pedestrian safety.”

Specifically, those issues are mostly related to scooters being ridden on sidewalks, she said (scooters are not allowed to be ridden on sidewalks per city code). A ban on sidewalk riding only, though, would be harder to enforce through a no-ride zone on the scooter company apps.

“It is my understanding, based on what was communicated to us from the city’s Department of Public Service,” Pandora said, “that, in order to place sidewalk restrictions, it involved…not having scooters be able to travel on High Street itself.”

The advocacy group Transit Columbus reacted to the new restrictions with the following statement, which was posted on the organization’s social media accounts last night:

“We’re deeply disappointed in this decision and will do what we can to try and remedy the situation. While there may have been issues caused by scooters being ridden on sidewalks, creative solutions should have been considered, not an outright ban. We continue to be angered by the lack of attention paid to pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and scooter riders in this city. If our goal is to improve safety, targeting scooters is not the solution – targeting fast car speeds and unsafe driving is a much better goal.”

Transit Columbus

Pandora insisted that the new rules do not amount to a ban on scooters in the neighborhood, and that they will not push more people to drive or use a ride-hailing service instead.

“The Short North is still accessible, and if somebody wanted to use a scooter to be able to get to and from the Short North, they would have the ability to do that,” she said. “So, [scooters] are an important part of mobility, for sure…and this is a necessary public safety intervention that will still preserve access to this important mobility option in our community.”

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