• Patrick Martin

Tallahassee on Two Electric Wheels, For Now

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

After Bird and Lime signed deals with some of the state's top-earning lobbying firms late last year, about 1,000 electric scooters appeared on Tallahassee's streets on July 15. The start of the city of Tallahassee's three-month E-scooter pilot program had begun, thanks to a micro-mobility bill signed by Governor DeSantis earlier this year. Tallahassee has recruited five vendors - Bird, Spin, Gotcha, VeoRide, and Lime - in a battle to survive the City's regulatory guidelines.

Commissioner Jeremy Matlow has made very clear that the City will be quick to punish unruly companies, saying at a June meeting, "I just want to make sure we’re vigilant of – when [a company] steps out of line, we’re taking them off right away, and it’s a message to any of the companies- we’re watching to see who’s going to mess up first.”

May the best scooter win.” - Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox

Mayor John Dailey says city staff will study anonymous data collected from these apps, so if most rides are from an alcohol-serving point A and a homely point B, keen city analysts might gain insight into which company isn't educating users well enough. Because, you very well can get a DUI on an E-scooter, as a Los Angeles man found out last September.

An Invisible Wall

Sorry, they won't work on campus.

An APPROXIMATE boundary of FSU's campus, where the scooters are not permitted, and will shut down if you try. I guessed on this and this is for illustrative purposes only.

Every scooter is programmed to shut down if it enters the geo-fence set up around FSU, FAMU or TCC's campuses. While I'm expecting to see some savvy engineering students wrapping tinfoil around the scooters' GPS unit, this means you'll get to campus - but not entirely to class.

A large part of students' transportation needs is getting to and from class. A major market of E-scooters will be replacing students' driving commute to campus, and we should expect to see students trying this out. Everyone knows parking is impossible on campus, so the push factor is there. Keep in mind FSU is considering a parking fee increase for students, so both of these policies combined might encourage students to skip the drive.

A Semester of Scooting 101

One priority of scooter vendors is educating riders on how to ride the e-scooters safely. This includes the impossible task of encouraging young riders to wear helmets - good luck with that - and more serious considerations, like going slow down hills and not scooting under the influence. This education is necessary to avoid an uptick in emergency room visits, the reason why Hollywood, Florida ended up banning them.

Scooter companies have half of the Fall semester to prove they're the right fit. Hopefully for students, at the end of this three-month trial run, FSU will be more amenable to allowing scooters on campus, and we'd be in good company: Gotcha already is in use at more than 75 universities across the country.

FSU students will have to see if the battery will last past October 15. But until then, have fun and ride safe!


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