City moves to regulate scooter-sharing services

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- The city is one step closer to regulating those electric scooters that you’ve seen zipping around all over town. The public works committee passed on a revised ordinance proposal to the full City Council Thursday night, but leaders say they expect even more changes to happen in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, both scooter companies, Lime and Bird, continue to operate even as city leaders made it clear they’d prefer a pause on operations until the ordinance is passed.

The initial proposal that was drafted in April would have banned the scooters completely.

Thursday’s revised edition outlined the rules companies have to play by if they want to operate in Indianapolis. There are still a lot of questions and some council members even admit the entire process is moving very fast.

“We want to continue to work with the council to bring common sense regulation to the table that will allow us to all operate on good legal footing,” said Lime’s regional manager Jason Wilde.

The proposed ordinance focuses mainly on how to regulate companies wanting to operate any kind of “dockless shared mobility service” as the city puts it—in this case, app-based, shareable scooters.

If the ordinance passes, a company will have to pay $15,000 to get a license, then pay one dollar, every day, for every device it operates. For example, if a company deployed 500 scooters, it would cost them just under $200,000 a year to do business in Indy.

“On the financial side of things, this is significantly more steep than we’ve seen in other cities,” said Wilde.

Council president Vop Osili (D) disagrees, saying that number is in line with what other cities charge, based on his research. For many on the committee, Thursday was the first they’d seen of the proposal, causing some to wonder if the process is moving too fast.

“We are moving quickly knowing that still between this committee meeting and the full council may still have additional amendments,” said Osili.

The proposal also sets limits on how many devices a company can operate, where they can deploy and where the devices can be parked. A common sticking point for many residents is where the devices can be ridden, as current ordinance bans them from sidewalks, which some feel is unsafe.

“Riding on a street with cars that, much bigger, is of concern,” said Indy resident Rob Shaw.

“If they want the scooters to stay on the streets, then they need to put more bike lanes,” said Gene Parsley, also of Indianapolis.

The council also seemed stuck on what to do about Lime and Bird’s refusal to comply with the city’s request to halt operations until the ordinance has passed.

“If our competitors are willing to pause, we are as well,” said Wilde, “to date, we have not received a letter asking us to stop.”

The proposal does stipulate however that a company’s compliance with current laws will be taken into account when the city is deciding whether to issue them a license.

Council members say they expect more changes to happen to that ordinance proposal between now and July 16, when the full council is expected to take a vote.

Representatives from Bird were at the meeting but declined to comment, passing us off to their corporate office. So far we have gotten no response.