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City of Cincinnati puts off decision on Bird, Lime e-scooters ban

The City instituted a new, earlier curfew last month.
Electric scooters at Smale Riverfront Park in Downtown Cincinnati.
Electric scooters at Smale Riverfront Park in Downtown Cincinnati.(Brian Planalp/WXIX)
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 7:03 PM EDT|Updated: May. 17, 2022 at 1:49 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The City of Cincinnati is putting off a decision on a possible ban on public rideshare e-scooters following a law and public safety meeting Tuesday.

According to the Department of Transportation and Engineering, there will be a 60 to 90-day delay before deciding to continue the contract with Bird and Lime scooter companies.

Cincinnati police says that the scooters make an attractive business model, but they don’t want to shut down at 6 p.m.

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The City of Cincinnati could ban public rideshare e-scooters if Bird and Lime don’t address issues raised last month.

The Department of Transportation and Engineering will update City Council members on proposed solutions at Tuesday’s meeting of the Public Safety and Governance Committee.

E-scooter rideshare businesses such as Bird and Lime are prohibited from operating in the city without a franchise. The city manager retains the sole discretion to approve or deny any franchise application.

The city instituted a new, earlier nightly curfew of 6 p.m. on rideshare e-scooters in late April.

Lime data show nearly 40 percent of rides have happened after 6 p.m. since the company launched its scooters in 2018. Bird data show a nearly 54 percent decrease in rides after the curfew went into effect on April 25.

Three days before that, DOTE staff including Director John Brazina met with Bird and Lime representatives to discuss safety issues raised by police and community members. Two Cincinnati Police Department captains also attended.

Various solutions were discussed, but according to meeting notes obtained by FOX19 NOW, the City “is considering terminating the E-scooter program and implementing a total ban of all E-scooters.”

The meeting notes also contain the following: “DOTE impressed upon Bird and Lime that for the first time, the City Administration, in response to the mounting E-Scooter Program associated issues, is considering the possibility of terminating the E-Scooter Program and banning public ride-share E-Scooters from operating within the City.”

Bird and Lime submitted presentations for Tuesday’s Council meeting showing specific solutions to some of the issues. They include geofencing to create no-ride, no-park and slow zones.

Lime users in Cincinnati will now be prompted to capture both sides of their driver’s license and to take a selfie to confirm their identity before starting a ride.

Bird has also implemented mandatory ID verification as well as banned prepaid credit cards for payment, a frequent loophole used by underage riders. The company adds it has banned 50 users in Cincinnati so far this year for violating the Bird terms of service, including underage riding and payment fraud.

A Bird spokesperson gave this statement Monday:

“Shared e-scooters are a critical, eco-friendly transportation alternative for many Cincinnati residents including those who rely on the service to get home from work in the evening, those who don’t own a car and those who don’t feel safe on public transit. Bird is working with the city to address their concerns – we’ve already turned on an ID scan feature to verify riders are 18 or older and turned off the group ride feature – to prevent policy decisions with sweeping repercussions for many. We hope that by working to address these concerns, the City will retract its decision to implement a curfew which penalizes the tens of thousands of responsible riders who are dependent on our service for access to their jobs, education opportunities as well as healthcare services.”

E-scooters began showing up in Cincinnati in the summer of 2018. The City executed interim operating contracts to Bird and Lime that September. One month later, the city began an RFP process for long-term franchise agreements with the companies. On April 18, 2022, the City Manager’s Office placed those agreements on indefinite hold due to “recent escalating events.”

City Council revised the municipal code twice in 2021 to address e-scooter usage. E-scooter drivers must obey traffic rules and rights-of-way in effect generally for all vehicles. Riding on sidewalks is prohibited, and riders must give right-of-way to pedestrians at all times. Riders must be 16 or older.

Additionally, riders are prohibited from parking their scooters “in a manner that impedes the flow of pedestrian travel, interferes with an intended function of the sidewalk or blocks or obstructs any doorway, crosswalk or other access route.”

The City charges $0.25 per trip or activation of an e-scooter and a flat annual administrative fee of $2,500. DOTE estimates the city will earn $84,000 from the current 400-unit fleet of e-scooters in fiscal year 2023.

Our media partners at the Enquirer report there have been 188 accidents involving e-scooters since 2018 with injuries ranging from minor scrapes to one case of extended hospitalization. On a yearly basis, according to the Enquirer, 0.02% of trips taken on the scooters involve accidents.

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