An ordinance dictating how and where electric scooters can be used in the city failed during a Chattanooga City Council meeting Tuesday, meaning the dockless vehicles could hit the streets without local regulation, although some scooter companies have been reluctant to do that.
At the council's regularly scheduled meeting, the ordinance didn't move due to a lack of a motion. There was a discussion at the council's agenda session earlier in the day about whether or not the ordinance as written would allow scooters and other dockless vehicles on sidewalks. Currently, the ordinance states that "a small vehicle may not be operating on sidewalks that are solely intended for pedestrians."
"There has to be some sort of a motion to get it back on the agenda," said City Attorney Phillip Noblett after the meeting. "If there's a motion to get it back on the agenda, then you have to follow the rules. It normally would require something to go on in two weeks unless there is a reason to go on quicker, and it would have to have the approval of two council members to put it back on the agenda."
Some residents and council members have raised questions about where scooters would be allowed to operate because bicycles are allowed on most sidewalks in the city, with some stating there are very few sidewalks "solely intended for pedestrians."
City staff cited state legislation that states no "electric bicycle" can be operated on any sidewalk unless the use of bicycles on sidewalks is authorized by resolution or ordinance of a local government or by rule or policy of a state agency.
The city and council members have stated electric scooters would only be allowed on shared-use paths, various greenways in the city and on city streets.
Without an ordinance, scooter companies could still deploy scooters in the city, but that hasn't worked very well in other cities across the country, with some cities regulating them after the fact or banning them altogether.
Electric scooter companies have been cautious about launching the newest mobility trend here in Chattanooga without rules set in advance by the city. Chattanooga City Council members have voiced several concerns about the dockless nature of electric scooters and the safety of them in the past six months. Many municipalities have reported problems with dumped and junked vehicles, riders speeding along on sidewalks instead of streets and increased numbers of accidents.
Representatives from Lime and Bird — e-scooter companies that have expressed interest in coming to Chattanooga — have business licenses issued by the city. A Lime representative was at the council meeting Tuesday, but the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Contact staff writer Allison Shirk Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org, @Allison_Shirk or 423-757-6651.