Amid cold weather, East Lansing’s newest and most meme-worthy mode of transportation is nowhere to be found. At the beginning of the fall semester, the sidewalks were replete with students zipping across campus on commercial electric scooters, but as of Dec.16, they are nowhere to be found.
Because of snowstorms and temperatures regularly falling below zero, not one scooter can be found on the streets of East Lansing. With orders from the city of East Lansing to remove all scooters by Dec. 16, ahead of inclement weather, there may be major changes before they’re back for spring.
At Feb. 19’s general discussion meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann opened up with a brief statement regarding the sudden appearance of electric scooters, namely Bird and Lime scooters, in East Lansing. “The scooter storm kind of took us by surprise, so we took a wait-and-see approach,” Altmann said.
Discussion between the city council and East Lansing attorney Tom Yeadon kicked off with a briefing on a prior electric skateboard ordinance that would cover scooters. With both classified as motor vehicles, they would have to follow standard motor vehicle procedure. This includes riding on the right side of the road while occupying bike lanes, make audible announcements before passing pedestrians on bikes or other electric vehicles, as well as having a 25 mph speed limit.
Yeadon’s proposed changes to the ordinance would include prohibiting riding scooters on sidewalks and a slower speed limit of 10-15 mph. This would also be introduced along with a curfew of 11 p.m. for scooter operators.
The council dismissed the suggestions, with Mayor Mark Meadows proposing that scooters be available until 3 a.m. to accommodate those working the “third shift.” Meadows also said he does not want to prohibit scooters on the sidewalk.
“I don’t want it to be a crime,” Meadows said.
As for speed, Meadows said “Everyone’s got their pedal to the metal.” making enforcement of such a law a hassle. He expressed concern that if such a limit were implemented electronically, it could alarm and harm users.
Since adopting this wait and see approach, more than 75,000 rides have taken place. None of those rides brought money to the city, as it wanted to wait and see how residents would interact with the scooters. The proposed initial fee of $5000 with additional fees for every ride deterred both scooter brands.
Nico Probst, Midwest strategic development manager for Lime scooters, said: “The beauty of Lime scooters is the affordability.” He said, that charging such a fee would defeat the purpose of Lime, as it would have to adjust its prices.
With the scooters being such a huge hit in East Lansing, it is likely they will be back.