Is a Scooter Ban the Answer in Saint Louis?
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a piece on Tuesday morning titled “With scooters gone, St. Louis police say weekend was relatively calm downtown.” That headline seems to indicate that scrapping Bird and Lime electric scooters will solve the ongoing issue of violence in downtown Saint Louis, which has recently been linked to large groups of young people riding recklessly through the streets. In response, city officials have gradually tightened scooter restrictions in the area, first instituting a 7 p.m. curfew in May, then implementing a total ban on June 6th.
Saint Louis Alderman James Page suggested in the Post-Dispatch article that the ban may last about two weeks. City leaders should take that time to ask themselves several questions about how best to manage this unique mode of transportation.
First, how will a scooter ban impact law-abiding residents and visitors? The fleets of young people roaming the streets on weekends may be an issue, but they are far from the only ones in the market for cheap, short-range transportation. With gas prices reaching historic highs and continuing to rise, some city dwellers find scooters a less expensive alternative for short trips. For those who rely on public transportation, scooters also address the “last mile problem,” eliminating walks from transit systems to a destination. Some visitors who choose not to drive in the city rely on scooters as well; previous Post-Dispatch articles include photos of businesspeople scooting to conventions.
Second, if new city-level regulations are under consideration, will they be the best solution to the youth scooter problem? Lee Foley, Lime’s director of community and government relations for the Midwest, has already put forward several possible restrictions the company could implement on its own units. These include requiring ID to restrict rider age, reducing maximum speeds, and limiting the Group Ride feature that allows one rider to activate multiple scooters. City leaders already plan to discuss solutions, likely including these options, with scooter companies in the weeks ahead.
Saint Louis officials are right in that they cannot continue to allow roaming youths on scooters to monopolize downtown police attention. However, they might want to consider the negative impacts of a long-term ban and the possibility of private solutions before instituting any new and permanent regulations.