Candidates for East Lansing City Council discussed the insurgence of rental scooters throughout the city, and the potential of a 25 mph speed limit for them, during a candidate forum at the Hannah Community Center on Oct. 3.
The Michigan State University Board of Trustees regulates use of the scooters on campus, while the East Lansing City Council regulates them throughout the rest of the city.
Gotcha scooters have a contract with MSU giving them the exclusive right to park on campus, the Lansing State Journal reports.
Other scooters found parking on campus may be impounded by MSU Police.
Six candidates, including two incumbents, are running to fill three seats in the Nov. 5 general election.
Here’s what each candidate had to say:
“I wish I was last on this one, because I don’t know much on this topic. I do know that there are times when I walk between my house in Lantern Hill at the top of the Bailey neighborhood and go to campus when I fear for my life.
“We have real problems in terms of who should be on sidewalks, who should be in the street. Between not just them, but also skateboards, rollerblades, drivers that are texting, and I’m only fearful that it’ll get worse when people aren’t just drunk, but they’re also high.
“We need to work with MSU on this, we need to work with the county, we need to work with our adjacent communities.
“Twenty-five sounds awful fast to me if I’m walking down the street or walking my dog.
“I don’t know all the answers, but I think we need to look at this and look with some other people who have experienced what, like I say, other college towns have done about this.”
Warren Stanfield III
“We do have problems. We have problems that are very serious and I do not think that we should be spending too much time of our police department clocking scooters and making sure that everyone is going under 25.
“You talk about Michigan State University’s involved in this, so you’re going to have Michigan State University cops speedometering scooters, East Lansing cops speedometering scooters, and we just are trying to figure out what the deal was with them and the amount of money that they got from that new tax that was passed.
“There’s still issues that we need to solve within our police department. There’s still things that we need to do for our police department. We don’t even have that great of a relationship with the MSU Police Department.
“Let’s not spend too much time on these ticky-tacky issues that we’re not 100 percent ready to tackle yet. Let’s make sure that the real issues are solved first.”
Erik Altmann (incumbent)
“Not to pick nits, but I don’t think they go faster than 15 mph and that’s what we learned in the variations last year. We actually set a speed limit of 10 mph in the DEA, the downtown district.
“We thought about using the GPS facilities on these scooters. You can geofence the scooters so that when they’re in a particular region, they have a different speed limit than when they’re in a different region. And this sounds like a really attractive to limit the speed of scooters in particular areas, like the downtown, where it’s congested.
“Then what happens when somebody’s riding their scooter and they cross the boundary and suddenly it speeds up by 5 mph? We thought this was a safety issue, so we do not require in our ordinance that companies geofence their scooters in that way. We just instituted a speed limit.
“Look, I think this is a great and interesting and disruptive technology that is going to annoy people until everybody gets used to it.
“I’m already seeing deployment issues, they’re being scattered all over the sidewalks in the neighborhoods, the Lime scooters are, and we have to solve that because people then can’t get down the sidewalk, and if they’re visually impaired or have other disabilities then it’s a problem. So we have to figure out how to solve that.
“Ultimately, I think we want all modes of transportation to have as much flexibility as makes sense. So, I’m OK with them on the sidewalks as long as we have a culture where that kind of thing works; I’m OK with bikes on the sidewalks.
“I think we can look to other places as the model, we can look to the Netherlands as a place where the bikes rule and, so, I don’t want scooters to rule, but I think everybody can get along.”
“I have mixed feelings about the scooters.
“On the one hand, they look like a lot of fun—but I’m the one who tumbled off a nice lady’s porch the other day, and I’m still injured. I thought about getting on a scooter just for comic value but, well, you know.
“When I had students at MSU, I would tell them: ‘For the love of God, wear helmets. Do you know how much money you’ve spent on your minds before you go crashing?’ They look like a lot of fun.
“I do have a sister that uses a wheelchair, and when I see them parked in the middle of a sidewalk, I go bonkers, because that impedes ability for people to maneuver on a public way. Beyond that, they kind of look like fun and, at this point, if that’s the worst thing that kids are doing, let’s encourage them.”
“I think the most recent rollout of the scooters was much smoother than the drop and run that we experienced last year. I think that was evidence of some ongoing conversations with the city and I think that we saw some distinct improvement in that.
“There’s been deployment areas marked out around town. There’s one directly across the street from my … store. It’s a nice little square on the sidewalk where five scooters will fit nicely side by side.
“I think, when the city negotiated with these companies and set licensing fees for these, there was some talk about using those fees for rider education signage, safe streets initiatives, and I think I would really like to see that followed through on. I don’t know if we’ve seen anything about the revenue yet, but we could definitely use rider education downtown.
“We’re discouraging cars in our downtown—we’re not, you know, forbidding them, but we’ve moved residents closer to campus. That’s not going to turn everyone into pedestrians. We have to understand that that’s going to be different types of traffic—bikes, scooters, Vespas, skateboards—and that is the reality, and we should implement infrastructure to deal with that.”
Mark Meadows (incumbent)
“My wife and I were in Europe this summer for a brief period, and what struck me most about the cities in Europe was all the scooters that were in these cities, they were everywhere, as were bicycles and other forms of … transportation that were not really hooked to the car. That doesn’t mean there aren’t cars in these big cities in Europe, it just means that they’re, one, they’re smaller, but also that there are other modes of transportation that seem to be utilized much more extensively than they are in the United States.
“I agree with Erik, I think that we will get used to this as time goes on. This is something new for us, but it seems to be part of the culture in Europe, and I think it will become part of the culture here because it seems very popular.
“I think that the ordinances that we passed last year were directed at trying to make it safer for pedestrians and scooters and everybody else who might be operating.
“Some of the things that we’re going to be doing, going forward, to encourage safer bike travel—something like you might see on Bogue Street at this point in time, but putting that on Abbot, putting that on Burcham—those type of changes and restricting scooters to that area might help alleviate the worry John might have about getting run over by a scooter on his way to campus.”