Fort Lauderdale is about to ban e-scooters on the beach and Riverwalk
[By SUSANNAH BRYAN]
No electric scooters will zip and zoom along busy A1A ever again under new rules coming to Fort Lauderdale.
Then there’s the speed limit. That’s right, Fort Lauderdale wants to cap the speed of the trendy rent-by-the-minute cruising machines that have taken the world by storm.
Electric scooters would glide along at a speed capped at 12 mph, all in the name of safety.
Two more red zones will power off any scooter rider who happens to cross into the restricted area.
Those ride-ban zones include downtown’s most popular strolling areas: The Riverwalk and Las Olas from Andrews Avenue all the way east to Southeast 17 Avenue.
The new rules, which won tentative approval Tuesday night and won’t take effect until a final vote in weeks to come, apply to e-bikes too.
E-bikes would cruise along faster, but not by much. Their speed would be capped at 15 mph.
Both would be off-limits at the beach. Under the new rules, riders would be allowed to head east over the Las Olas bridge to drop off their scooters at a dedicated parking corral at the city’s Las Olas parking garage.
A technology known as geofencing would set up no-ride zones at the beach and restricted areas downtown. Those zones would be protected by an invisible fence. When riders venture past that fence, their scooter will lose power and coast to a stop. They’ll have to wheel it to an area outside the restricted red zone for it to come to life again.
It will be up to the scooter rental companies to determine how they will get riders to stay out of restricted zones, said city spokeswoman Dayana Diaz.
“Slowing the devices to zero miles per hour may be one approach,” she said. “Other potential options include not allowing rides to end or potentially imposing fines.”
Typically, riders who take their rented scooters into restricted red zones will not be able to end the ride on their smartphone app. That means the tab on their credit card will keep going up until they wheel the scooter out of the restricted area.
Here’s another rule for riders: Stick to the bike lane to avoid colliding with pedestrians. Take the sidewalk only if you’re traveling through an area with no bike lane.
The new rules apply not only to rented e-scooters and e-bikes, but to those that are privately owned as well.
Scooters came to town in November 2018 after Fort Lauderdale welcomed them in.
But after a series of scooter-related accidents and one death, city leaders began discussing the need for new safety rules.
In June 2019, they agreed to temporarily ban electric scooters and bikes from the beach to give the city time to come up with safety reforms.
Not everyone is happy about the new rules and upcoming ban.
That includes scooter fan Dave MacDougall, who wiped out once in front of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts after flying over a broken sidewalk after dark.
“It was as if I hit a curb at full speed,” he said. “I flew forward, scraped my elbow and knee. I will always have scars from that.”
But he still rides them, both day and night.
“It just saves time,” he said. “I think banning them in the downtown center is asinine.”
But Luke Moorman, owner of Carroll’s Jewelers and president of the Las Olas Association, thinks banning scooters on the busiest blocks makes sense.
“You have people who don’t know how to drive jumping on a scooter,” he said. “And people are getting hurt.”
Moorman had his own close call more than a year ago.
“I had someone almost run me over,” he said. “I turned around to be faced with a guy going 20 mph straight toward me. He jumped off and held onto the handlebars and was able to avoid me.”
At one point, up to 2,000 scooters were available for rent when four companies were operating in the city. That number dropped when Gotcha and Bolt pulled out.
Currently, only Bird and Lime rent scooters in Fort Lauderdale. Both have a permit for 500 scooters each.
Fort Lauderdale plans to limit the number of scooters available within city limits to 1,500. Three scooter rental companies each would be allowed permits for 500 scooters. E-bikes would be capped at 200.