Cleveland And Cuyahoga County Could Clear Way For Return Of Scooters

A Bird scooter sits at Playhouse Square in 2018.
A Bird scooter sits at Playhouse Square in 2018. [Adrian Ma / ideastream]
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Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are preparing legislation that would welcome shared, motorized scooters back to city sidewalks.

County council will take a first look Tuesday at an ordinance allowing the county’s sustainability department to license bike and scooter share programs. At the city level, Councilman Kerry McCormack says scooter legislation should be coming in the next few weeks.

“There has been a resounding—to me, at least—conversation and opinion that these types of multi-modal connectors are really important for the future of Cleveland, and that they want to see them come back,” McCormack said.

Last summer, California-based startup Bird dropped off 100 electric scooters on the streets of Cleveland. The city’s law department demanded their removal. The company complied, and the city said it would “engage in an open and competitive process” to select a scooter operator.

Neither the county nor the city has released specific rules for scooter operating companies yet. The proposed county ordinance allows the county to collect licensing fees from operators of “dockless” bike and scooter programs.

Users typically ride such scooters on sidewalks and can park them there without locking them to physical stations. Cuyahoga County Sustainability Director Mike Foley said the county is looking into setting aside designated areas for parking the devices.

“We want to encourage kind of minimizing the kind of potential chaos that could happen with just willy-nilly bike systems dropped in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County,” Foley said.

Foley says he hopes to develop regulations for scooters before the summer. He says he doesn’t expect the county’s scooter rules to conflict with those laid out in the state’s latest transportation budget.

The budget, which the Ohio House passed last week, prohibits people younger than 16 from operating scooters. Under the proposed state rules, riders must yield to pedestrians and give warnings when passing them.

Foley says he’s been meeting with Cleveland officials to talk about aligning the county’s rules with the city’s. McCormack says he’s “probably a couple weeks away” from finishing draft scooter legislation for Cleveland City Council.

Although the city has said it would select an operator after a competitive bid process, McCormack says he is “very much against” issuing a request for proposals to find a single scooter company.

“This is something that the free market needs to figure out,” McCormack said. “We should set guidelines on how these operate, so they work well in the city. But we shouldn’t be picking winners and losers of this new technology.”

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