A pair of Metro Council members wants to send Nashville’s Birds back to their nests.
Councilmembers Sheri Weiner and Freddie O’Connell are sponsoring new legislation that would require Nashville’s army of dockless scooters to have designated parking spaces, according to Metro filings. The bill — which you can read here — will make its Metro Council debut next week.
Currently, companies operating under Metro’s existing guidelines are allowed to park and pick up their scooters anywhere on the city’s sidewalks, which some city officials argue presents a public safety hazard.
“I think it’s important for us to look at safety and what unintended consequences there might be,” Weiner told the Nashville Business Journal. “The reason I went ahead and presented [this legislation] is for us to start having that conversation. What’s going to come next? Is everyone going to want to start leaving their bikes around on the sidewalk?”
She continued: “I don’t want to eliminate them because I think they’ve got really good value. … However, I think we need to be mindful of the safety perspective, and we need to tighten them down in a way that’s appropriate for Nashville.”
Weiner said she hopes to work with Nashville’s scooter operators to determine what type of docking system would work best. In some cities, docking stations are as simple as a spray-painted area.
O’Connell, whose district spans the majority of downtown, said scooters cluttering Metro sidewalks is one of the top three complaints he receives from constituents, in addition to concerns over users riding scooters on the sidewalks or veering into traffic.
While O’Connell wants to address how scooters are being parked following rides, he argues there are several ways to tackle the issue without being disruptive to Metro’s pilot program for scooters, which will run until August. For instance, he hopes to file another bill in February to implement a 5-cent-per-ride surcharge to fund enforcement measures, which he argues is roughly equivalent to what the companies already dedicate per ride to advocate for better transportation infrastructure. These enforcement measures could be as simple as picking up fallen scooters.
“It wouldn’t shut down the pilot or be super disruptive to the business model because it matches their advocacy dollars with the target of the advocacy,” O’Connell said, while acknowledging any change would require collaboration and cooperation with the city’s scooter operators.
It is not immediately clear who would get those additional dollars, whether it’s the Metropolitan Department of Public Works, the city’s police force or another Metro entity, according to the councilman.
Nashville has been flooded with hundreds of scooters since Metro Council approved a one-year pilot program regulating the popular, yet controversial, transportation option. For proponents, the scooters offer an easy solution for short-distance trips. For opponents, the scooters are a hindrance, clogging the city’s streets and sidewalks.
Currently, three companies — Bird, Lime and Lyft — have scooters on the city’s streets. Meanwhile, Jump, Spin and Gotcha have received operating permits, but have not yet launched. A bill capping the number of companies permitted under Metro’s pilot is also making its way through the council.
Representatives from the scooter companies were not immediately available for comment.