Like many places around the world, Salt Lake City’s streets are awash in e-scooters. And in each place — from Paris and New York, to Madrid, San Diego and more — cities have wrestled with finding a balance between scooter use and public safety.
It’s an important conversation that affects all of us, especially because scooter use, which topped 38.5 million rides across the U.S. in 2018, is expected to continue to grow.
But, as members of Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, we are particularly attuned to the challenges scooter usage presents for those in our community who live with disabilities.
Disabled persons have worked hard to secure the accessibility and accommodations that afford us full access to community life and expands our independence. That includes being able to safely navigate city streets and sidewalks, whether we depend on wheelchairs, have visual or hearing impairments or live with some other disability.
Scooter use that is either reckless or irresponsible complicates that in a number of ways: We can’t always, for example, easily move out of the way on a narrow sidewalk to avoid a collision. We might not be able to see a scooter left lying on the ground or across sidewalk, nor can we hear a scooter approaching from behind.
We don’t believe that every scooter rider presents a hazard and we want to ensure that they, too, are safe as they travel around the city.
We also don’t think that Salt Lake City should address safety concerns by adopting a scooter ban as some cities have done. We recognize that the scooters provide a fun and economical way for many to get around the city and we are happy to ‘share the road,’ as it were.
But we do believe that the city needs a fair set of clear and respectful rules for everyone, regardless of ability.
That’s why our committee supports the proposed scooter use ordinance currently under consideration by the Salt Lake City Council.
The ordinance would require scooter riders to follow the same sidewalk and right of way rules as bicyclists. It also prohibits riders from abandoning the two-wheeled vehicles anywhere that disrupts or blocks pedestrian traffic on streets, walkways, transit platforms and in parking spaces.
Additionally, it would require scooter companies to be active partners in helping Salt Lake City in education scooter riders and monitoring scooter use.
The guidelines essentially mirror the temporary agreements inked between the city and rental companies since the mobile devices first began operating here in August in 2018.
It also draws on the experiences and best practices used in other U.S. cities and we commend Salt Lake City’s transportation department experts for their thoughtful and careful drafting of the proposal.
We encourage the Salt Lake’s City Council to adopt the ordinance when it comes up for a vote.
We believe its combined requirements represent a strong balance between public access, accountability and safety that will greatly benefit our city.
Sarah Benj is the ADA coordinator for the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office and chair of the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Accessibility Committee. Committee members include Everette Bacon, Amy Carmen, Todd Clafin, Nate Cripps, Jeff Kenyon, Leah Lobato, Pamela Mower, Stephen Persinger, Margo Thurman and Glynnis Wright.