Chandler City Council approved Dec. 12 a policy that would allow the scooters in the city for a one-year pilot program that would impose rules on scooter companies and limit the number of devices in the city.
Scooters began infiltrating Valley cities several years back—Gilbert, Tempe, Mesa and Scottsdale all have scooters. Chandler city officials say the scooters can boost mobility for residents with limited transportation options, but residents surveyed over the summer were skeptical of the benefits of the scooters.
Forty-one percent of more than 500 responses to a public survey indicated they would not like to see scooters in Chandler.
“On the survey side, a lot of people expressed concerns about scooters being here, though a lot of people thought that limiting the number of scooters and managing some concern with presence of scooters would help,” said Jason Crampton, senior transportation planner with the city. “In the business survey, there was more receptivity to scooters being in Chandler. Some businesses thought it could attract new customers to their businesses.”
The scooters are owned and operated by private companies, and users locate and unlock the scooters with smartphone applications, paying a fee to use the scooter. When they finish, users park the scooters, and companies restage them as needed. A driver’s license is required, and users must be over 18 to ride a scooter.
In other neighboring Valley municipalities, scooter companies deployed fleets before the local governments could get regulations into place. In the town of Gilbert, spokesperson Jennifer Harrison said the scooters arrived before the town set up rules and regulations, and at first not all residents were happy with the development.
“[We had] mixed reviews at first—primary concerns related to too many scooters in one location and issues with them being knocked over and blocking sidewalks,” Harrison said in an email. “After regulations and the ordinance went into effect, the concerns/issues seemed to lessen.”
Public perception of shared mobility devices
According to a public survey of residents over the summer, a slight majority of respondents indicated they would prefer no scooters in Chandler. However, according to the same survey, a minority of respondents were opposed to scooters regardless of whether the city develops effective strategies to regulate them.
The survey also highlighted that the biggest concerns among residents were safety, blocked sidewalks and “visual clutter.”
Forty-nine percent of survey respondents indicated blocked sidewalks and access issues were their greatest concern, while 60% said safety for riders and safety for pedestrians were their greatest concern. Respondents were able to select up to two responses in this portion of the survey.
The city’s survey also asked residents what they would use the scooters for. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they would use the devices for recreation or leisure purposes; 20% indicated they would use the scooter in place of walking or biking; and 19% said they would use the scooter in place of a car.
Putting policies and regulations in place
Chandler city officials asked the scooter companies not to deploy fleets until the city had a set policy in place when scooters were being dropped off in neighboring cities and towns in 2018, Crampton said.
“They honored that request,” Crampton said. “In some instances, scooters were brought in from other areas and removed fairly quickly, and there have been a few short instances where scooter companies were staging a few scooters, then we asked them to stop, and they did.”
Council also approved an amendment to the city’s code that applied to scooters. Previously, in city code, scooters were classified as “motorized play vehicles” and were prohibited from sidewalks, city parks and on any roadway with more than four lanes. An amendment to the city code was required in order to bring scooters to Chandler, Crampton said.
The pilot license agreement allows the city to limit the number of scooters, can require data sharing and, in addition, with the fees collected by the city from the scooter companies, Chandler can provide parking areas for the shared mobility devices. Crampton said enforcement of the rules is easier under the pilot license agreement as permits to companies are revocable if the company fails to meet permit requirements or pay fines.
“We have strict rules about where scooters can be parked and left and then requirements for scooter companies to come and collect them,” Crampton said. “We’ve got this program in place to monitor the scooter companies to make sure they are always adhering to the rules.”
The pilot calls for no more than 150 scooters per company for the first three months of operation, according to city records. After three months, it is up to the city’s discretion to approve gradual fleet expansion up to a maximum of 300 scooters per company.
The pilot also calls for no more than five scooters or three bicycles to be in a cluster, and the clusters must be separated by at least 150 feet. Scooters would also be banned under the colonnade in downtown Chandler, where skateboards are prohibited, and in parking garages, according to city records.
A concern of Chandler residents, according to survey results, is the “visual clutter” associated with scooters being abandoned in places throughout the city. Forty-seven percent of nearly 500 respondents said their biggest concern with the scooters was visual clutter, and 49% said their biggest concerns was the scooters blocking sidewalks or creating access issues.
Crampton said to combat residents’ concerns of visual clutter and the scooters being parked in places they should not be—such as in front yards or blocking pedestrian traffic on sidewalks—the city wanted to have the pilot license agreement in place so scooter companies could be fined if the devices were not relocated within a set two-hour time frame.
“Scooter companies want to be able to continue working with the city,” Crampton said. “Keeping the scooters where they should be, that motivation will definitely be there. If a company is not working well, then that company will no longer be allowed to operate in Chandler.”
Crampton said establishing rules should help to ease concerns of Chandler residents. He also said the scooters offer a transportation option for residents and offer various other benefits.
“One thing we wanted to point out—a lot of attention gets placed on [the] negative—there are a lot of benefits that we see,” Crampton said. “Mobility, helping people to access bus stops, limited access to cars, more environmentally friendly way to get around, help reduce vehicle congestion. That’s kind of why we are excited to have this transportation option in Chandler.”
Crampton said the city hopes to have scooters in place by January or February.