Chattanooga City Council members were supposed to vote on an ordinance for dockless vehicles in the city on Tuesday, ending months of discussions on electric scooters, but an amendment to the ordinance by a council member moved it back one more week.
Councilwoman Carol Berz wanted to add language to the ordinance under the section that removes liability from the city if a rider sustains an injury while operating a dockless vehicle/electric scooter. She said she had no issue with what was stated in the ordinance, but she wanted to cite a state law in the section.
"It protects the city and it requires the waiver," Berz said.
The process of bringing electric scooters to Chattanooga has been lengthier and more involved than in most cities where the scooters have launched. Electric scooter companies have been cautious about launching the newest mobility trend here in Chattanooga without rules set in advance by the city, and City Council members have been discussing possible scooter rules for the past eight months. Many municipalities have reported problems with dumped and junked vehicles, riders speeding along on sidewalks instead of streets and an increased number of accidents.
The city of Austin, Texas, recently studied the impact of electric scooter injuries in the city. Of the 190 injured riders studied in a nearly three-month period, 1 in 3 had been riding the electric scooter for the first time. A majority of the riders were male and between the ages of 18 and 29.
Nearly half of those interviewed had injuries to their heads, and fewer than 1% of the riders wore a helmet. Fifteen percent of the riders had evidence suggesting a traumatic brain injury.
While 60% of the riders had received training on using the e-scooter from the company's phone application, the study said more training might be necessary.
Educating riders is a component of the ordinance city officials are considering, though. It states companies must educate riders on the city's rules and regulations for dockless vehicles. All companies must have a Chattanooga-specific website that educates riders on those policies.
Representatives from Lime and Bird — e-scooter companies that have expressed interest in coming to Chattanooga — have business licenses issued by the city, but they would still need to obtain dockless system permits if the ordinance is passed on a final vote next week.
Each company could launch only 300 scooters initially during a one-month trial period, with the chance to deploy more if they can prove to the city that the electric scooters are being used by residents and tourists. Scooters would only be allowed in the city's "Urban Overlay Zone," which is mostly downtown and stretches from Missionary Ridge on the east, North Chattanooga and Hill City to the north, the base of Lookout Mountain to the west and the Georgia state line to the south.
The electric scooters would not be allowed on sidewalks intended only for pedestrians, but could be used wherever bicycles are allowed. While helmets are encouraged, the ordinance states, they are not required unless a rider is under 16. Most scooter companies, like Lime, don't allow riders under 18, though. The city's ordinance was amended last week to state no one under the age of 14 could ride scooters.
Contact Allison Shirk Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org, @AllisonSCollins or 423-757-6651.