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Ride on sidewalk, pay $100: Omaha considers rules, fines for electric scooters
special report

Ride on sidewalk, pay $100: Omaha considers rules, fines for electric scooters

Only $5 for 5 months
scooters in Omaha

Electric scooters were popular with riders during a pilot run last year in areas like downtown, midtown and Benson.

Using your smartphone to activate a dockless electric scooter: about $1.

Violating one of the proposed rules on their usage: $100.

The City of Omaha has announced that electric scooters may return from June to November — pandemic permitting — for Year 2 of a pilot program. Two companies, Spin and Bird, have submitted proposals to the city.

An ordinance under consideration by the City Council lays out the rules of the road for using scooters. Under the proposed rules:

  • Scooters wouldn’t be allowed on sidewalks, and riders wouldn’t be able to take them on streets with speed limits greater than 35 mph. Riders must obey all city and state traffic laws.
  • No one under 18 would be allowed to use them. Riders would need to have a valid driver’s license or state-issued ID. Only one person would be allowed to operate a scooter at a time.
  • Scooters could not be parked in ways that block accessible parking, driveways or railroad tracks.
  • Consuming alcohol while riding a scooter would be prohibited, and positive results of a preliminary breath test would be “sufficient evidence to presume consumption.” Refusing to submit to a preliminary breath test would be a separate offense.

Violating any of those rules would result in a $100 fine, according to city documents.

“When the scooter pilot was conducted last year, law enforcement and prosecutors were forced to cobble together applicable state statutes and current ordinances for enforcement,” a letter introducing the proposed ordinance states.

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the City Council’s June 2 meeting.

Scooter companies, too, will face new requirements, Mayor Jean Stothert said earlier this month. They must assure the city upfront that they have the ability to slow down and stop scooters in the city’s slow and no-go zones. They also must post rules on each scooter.

Scooters were introduced to Omaha in May 2019. They were popular with riders in areas like downtown, midtown and Benson, where they were allowed. More than 200,000 rides were taken by the end of the pilot run in November.

But some drivers and pedestrians considered them a nuisance, or dangerous.

A 9-year-old boy was seriously injured in a collision with a city bus while riding a scooter in September. Shortly thereafter, Spin and Lime, the companies that served Omaha during Year 1 of the pilot, made it harder for people under 18 to rent scooters by requiring riders to verify their age using a driver’s license.

A final vote on the ordinance is expected June 9.

Our best staff photos of May 2020, 402-444-1127, @reecereports

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Reece covers Sarpy County for The World-Herald. He's a born-and-raised Nebraskan and UNL grad who spent time in Oklahoma and Virginia before returning home. Follow him on Twitter @reecereports. Phone: 402-444-1127

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