SALT LAKE CITY — While a slew of resident correspondence with Salt Lake officials reflects tales of being terrorized by electric scooter riders surfing city sidewalks, a legislative proposal would expand the legal, on-street territory for the new machines.
The bill, SB139, proposes to modify current state code that prohibits motorized scooters from operating on streets with speed limits over 25 mph, as well as roadways that have more than two lanes. The bill also stipulates that operators may not consume alcoholic beverages while riding and those under 15 years old must have an adult supervisor present when they ride.
Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, said the goal of the proposal is to boost the viability of the two-wheelers as a transportation option.
"This bill seeks to make (e-scooters) more legally viable in Salt Lake City and the state," Cullimore said.
Cullimore noted that in Sandy, he believes the scooters could help solve so-called "first mile, last mile" challenges of connecting the end of public transit lines, like FrontRunner stations, with riders' final destinations.
E-scooter operators Lime and Bird launched in Salt Lake City last summer and both use networked transportation systems that allow users to locate and rent the two-wheelers with a smartphone app.
While a city survey conducted last year found that a majority of those who have ridden the vehicles like the option and want to see more, dozens of complaints recounted unfortunate encounters on sidewalks, even though e-scooters (as well as bicycles) are banned from downtown pedestrian thoroughfares in Salt Lake City.
Before seasonally inclement weather moved in last fall, both Lime and Bird were each deploying about 500 rentable e-scooters daily in Salt Lake City, according to city officials.
Salt Lake City Transportation Director Jon Larsen told the Deseret News the city was supporting the proposal both for addressing impractical restrictions, and instituting some new, common-sense rules including stipulations on acceptable motor sizes for the two-wheelers.
"Our approach has been that e-scooters should be treated the same as e-bikes," Larsen said. "I appreciate that the language in the bill basically does just that.
Larsen add that the proposal "helps define what one of these scooters is. If it's something that has a really powerful motor and goes over 25 mph, it should be something else."6 comments on this story
A representative of Lime testified at the committee hearing that his company was supporting the proposal and Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said he had worked on reviewing issues that could hinder use of e-scooters with a group formed by the Wasatch Front Regional Council. He also lauded the proposals inclusion of a speed-limiting clause that limits the scooters to 20 mph max.
"We spotted some issues in state law that are problematic and the bill addresses those matters," Silvestrini said. "It's important that we can regulate the speed of these scooters downward … because we want them to be operated on streets and not sidewalks."
SB139 was approved on a unanimous vote and now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.