Gilbert approves micromobility pilot program as Lime scooters enter town

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Gilbert has a new a micromobility pilot program that gives companies guidelines on operating vehicles such as scooters in town while sharing data on usage for the town to study.

Companies that opt to participate will pay the town an annual fee and $0.10 per ride. Additionally, Gilbert Town Council passed revisions to the town code to clarify how the vehicles can be operated in town.

Council’s approval of the program March 7 came on the same day that dockless scooter company Lime dropped in about 200 scooters throughout town without consulting the town, officials said.

Micromobility refers to personal vehicles that carry one or two people. In Gilbert the issue has been about scooters. It started Nov. 18 when Bird, another dockless scooter company, first appeared in town with its scooters. Bird also came into Gilbert without consulting the town.

While council members and staff expressed dismay in meetings at the way Bird arrived, the town still forged ahead in looking at a way to study micromobility’s effect and how it could fit into the town’s transportation picture. It also collected feedback from residents through a town survey.

Program’s details

Transportation planner Nichole McCarty told council staff will have the program ready for companies April 6. It will begin collecting data on usage as partners come aboard.

Council would review the program by the one-year mark. However, the town could revise the program or change it earlier.

The companies must pay a one-time program fee of $2,500 to participate. The $0.10 per ride operating fee would be paid monthly.

Participating companies will have no limits on fleet size. They may operate throughout the town unless prohibited by signage or code or in designated areas with high pedestrian traffic. Those areas include along Gilbert Road in the Heritage District.

Companies can park up to six vehicles near bus stops. Otherwise no more than four scooters can lawfully be parked together at a minimum interval of 150 feet.

Riders only can operate on roads where the speed limit is no greater than 25 mph. The scooters cannot be used in bike lanes. On streets where the speed limit is greater than 25 mph, they can be operated on the sidewalk.

Scooters must be equipped with “geo-fencing” that will keep the devices from operating in prohibited areas or force the scooters to go no more than 10 mph in the Heritage District and SanTan Village. The speed limit is otherwise 15 mph.

Companies are expected to remove vehicles where they present an obstruction within two hours of a report between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and within four hours at other times. The companies also must have the vehicles off the street for recharging by 10 p.m. each night.

Public education

While citations for civil offenses can be issued, police will concentrate on educating the public first, Chief Michael Soelberg said.

Council Member Jared Taylor moved to amend the proposed code with changes to require a warning before issuing a citation, but his motion did not receive a second. Staff and council members expressed concerns about routinely giving written warnings.

Council directed staff to collect data on law enforcement collections and costs and injuries from scooter use. The town also will require program participants to share usage data.

“I think we’ve seen how fast this micromobility has changed, and I don’t think we can even predict what this will look like in a year when we come back to talk about this again, if that’s how long we go out,” Council Member Brigette Peterson said. “So anything is possible. The sky’s the limit.”

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Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.
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