The Board of Aldermen put the brakes on shareable dockless scooters, or e-scooters, in Frederick at a workshop Wednesday afternoon, deciding instead to vote on an ordinance to deny them within city limits as early as the Oct. 3 public hearing.
A six-month moratorium was placed on the form of transportation on April 1, meaning that the ban on shareable scooters is set to expire on Oct. 1. Because of the suspension, the board and mayor were set to hear research city staff had conducted on the issue at Wednesday’s meeting.
There appeared to be confusion, however, when some board members said they were expecting to hear suggestions for regulations on implementing e-scooter commerce in the city and potential regulations were not presented. Discussion then ignited when Assistant City Attorney Rachel Depo asked to extend the moratorium for another six months before deciding whether the scooters should be allowed in Frederick.
“I feel that when we addressed this six months ago, I was very supportive of there being a six-month temporary ban to give the city time to decide what would work best in the city of Frederick,” Alderman Ben MacShane said at the workshop. “We’ve reached the end of that time, and I think that it’s an appropriate time to make a decision. I’m not supportive of extending this another six months.”
The mayor and board went on to hear comments from Frederick Police Chief Ed Hargis regarding some of the research city staff has accumulated since April. Hargis also explained that throughout the fact-finding effort, he broke the investigation down to four areas: legislative, safety, operational and environmental factors.
Among the issues Hargis presented Wednesday was clutter on sidewalks, the dangers of intoxicated people riding scooters, riders ignoring rules, speed limits and various safety concerns that could lead to injuries and even death. He also noted that riders often leave scooters on private property and the potential of people discarding them in Carroll Creek.
“My recommendation as of today, based on safety concerns alone, would be to prohibit the use of these scooters in Frederick,” Hargis told the aldermen before adding that if they wanted to move forward with allowing them in the city, he would suggest waiting another six months before drafting an ordinance.
Waiting was not the preferable option, though, according to some — especially those who were expecting to discuss defined scooter regulations at Wednesday’s meeting. According to both Depo and Alderwoman Kelly Russell, however, the reality is that the potential pros and cons of allowing shareable scooters in the city are immensely fluid and change by the day.
Therefore, they felt the city needed more time to make a responsible decision.
While some felt staff was given enough time to make such a decision, the ever-changing release of studies, as well as unexpected consequences from cities that already allow shareable scooters, was enough to require more research, Russell said. With that in mind, MacShane proposed a solution to stave off another six-month waiting period.
“I support these being disallowed ... from operating in the city of Frederick,” MacShane said. “In the future, it is possible that a safe structure may emerge, but at this time, the city is unable to find one.”
And though the mayor and board will most likely vote on the future of scooters in Frederick next month, the ordinance will not include private use of scooters. As MacShane said, “If you have a scooter in your garage, ride it around and have a good time.”