Oh Wise One: Why didn’t last week’s article on motorized foot scooters brought to Rochester include the fact that users cannot legally make left turns? According to state law, riders must go to the right curb and become a pedestrian to cross the intersection. — Soured on the Limes
Your question, as well as similar inquiries made by email and peppered throughout social media posts in recent days, raises a question that even I might not be able to answer: Why all the hubbub about scooters?
It seems these two-wheeled devices have replaced bicycles as the new target of angst and woe in city streets. Even before they arrived, people appeared to be predicting mass casualties are on the horizon.
As the Rochester City Council prepared to review the four-month test of the rental scooters, which passed in a 5-2 vote, Rochester resident Barry Skolnick raised concerns found in reports from other cities, suggesting the council send the issue to its volunteer boards for review, effectively delaying the project for a year (or at least shortening it by months).
Council Member Patrick Keane, who supported the scooter test, noted anyone researching a new, popular trend will likely find plenty of negative publicity, but a handful of negative outcomes doesn’t mean it’s not worth a trial run.
As you note, rules are part of the ride when hitting the streets with a scooter. While state statute notes scooter users have most of the same rights and duties of bicyclists, there are some differences.
As you noted, left turns are one of those differences. The statute states: “When preparing for a left turn, in which case the operator shall stop and dismount at the right-hand curb or right edge of the roadway, and shall complete the turn by crossing the roadway on foot, subject to restrictions placed by law on pedestrians.”
Other differences worth noting are that anyone younger than 12 is banned from riding a scooter on public roadways and the electric devices are banned from all sidewalks, even though bikes are allowed on Rochester sidewalks outside the downtown business district.
The other unaddressed question has been enforcement of the rules. It’s a question that is hard to address without scooters on the streets, but it’s likely that rule-breakers will be seen and will escape the long arm of the law.
After all, bicyclists still ride where they are not allowed, motorists run red lights and park illegally, and pedestrians jaywalk. It all happens without 100 percent enforcement. However, the existing rules mean if something goes awry due to the infractions, the city and anyone affected have the law on their side.
Parking concerns for the scooters are another issue that keeps popping up. Numbers and usage will likely determine whether the anticipated problems arise. It’s doubtful that the rental company, Lime, will deliver more scooters if the existing fleet sits idle throughout the day. It would seem to defy basic supply-and-demand logic.
The company has taken steps to ensure proper parking by calling for users to take photos of the parked scooters to ensure proper practices are followed.
Granted, bumps will be seen during the city’s scooter test drive, but as Council Member Annalissa Johnson said, it’s worth giving it “a whirl” and if problems arise the city can pull the plug or implement new regulations.
Until then, I’ll be scooting around the city in search of a few more answers.