Modesto could give a test run to electric scooter rentals as a form of alternative transportation.
Wednesday, the City Council’s economic development committee recommended a pilot scooter program with Lime, a company with shared scooters or electric-assist bikes in more than 100 cities.
Lime has expressed interest in providing scooter rentals in the Modesto and Stockton markets. The possible pilot program for six months to a year could test whether shared scooters catch on with Modesto residents and whether problems experienced in other cities would occur in Modesto.
Customers use a Lime app to find scooters nearby and then scan a code or enter a number to unlock the scooter before taking a spin in an upright position.
Rental companies usually charge a flat rate, such as $1 to start, and a cost per minute charged to the customer’s credit card.
The Lime scooters would be available for short-term rides in a Modesto test area including the downtown, Virginia Corridor and Modesto Junior College east and west campuses.
It’s thought that MJC students may want to grab a rental scooter to travel between the west and east campuses. City officials are not sure if people would use them to tool around the downtown with its narrow sidewalks, shorter walking distances and absence of bike lanes on some streets.
City Councilman Bill Zoslocki said that on a trip to Washington, D.C., he found rental scooters were popular with tourists taking in the sights of the nation’s capital. The councilman said he took a ride, paying $8 for 40 minutes. He said riding the scooter with handlebars in the standing position was not so stable and required some skill.
Top speed for the scooters is about 15 mph. California law requires people to ride them on streets and stay off the sidewalks.
There was no word from City Hall on when the full City Council will consider approving the test program. A Lime representative was not available Thursday to talk about a pilot program in Modesto.
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The proliferation of dockless bike and scooter rentals in larger cities has generated complaints about parked vehicles cluttering sidewalks, safety for riders and mishaps with pedestrians.
Riders including students, tourists and professionals took 38.5 million trips on shared scooters last year, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
The rental industry took off with shared bikes that were picked up and parked in stations, but Modesto will test “dockless” vehicles that are parked anywhere and are far more popular today. According to a city staff report, shared scooters are considered more user friendly and are chosen more often than the bikes.
Modesto could also seek proposals from services providing shared bikes. The council committee was told Wednesday that there’s no expected fiscal impact positive or negative for the city. The costs of staff members working on the pilot program will come out of the general fund.
City Attorney Adam Lindgren said he wanted data on damage and injury claims in municipalities that allow shared scooter and bike services.
In January, a new California law reversed a mandate that previously required riders 18 years and older to wear helmets. State law does not allow the electric scooters on streets with speed limits higher than 25 mph.
Sacramento requires rental companies to provide racks for parking the vehicles.
Without rules, some Modesto officials believe e-scooters will generate complaints. “It would irritate me to find the one (parking space) downtown and a scooter is there,” Councilman Doug Ridenour said.
On its website, Lime advises customers to park its scooters away from pedestrian walkways and private property. Other facts: The scooter batteries have a 20-mile range. Lime “juicers” go around picking up scooters that need a battery recharge. Depending on the city, rates may be from 15 cents to 25 cents per minute on top of the $1 flat charge.