Proposed bill would legalize low-speed electric scooters in Louisiana

Bird scooters.
Bird scooters.((Source: Capital News Service))
Updated: Apr. 9, 2019 at 1:55 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Louisiana bill that would allow low-speed electric scooters on the roadway has been introduced in this year’s special session.

District 23 senator Patrick Cortez is sponsoring the bill, SB-91, which was introduced to the senate Monday. The bill will be sent for a second read before it’s referred to the Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works.

RELATED: BILL WATCH 2019: What’s what during the 2019 Louisiana Legislative Regular Session

The bill would allow electric low-speed scooters on public roadways, including sidewalks, bicycle paths and highways. The scooter’s speed limit should not go over 25 miles per hour. The legislation authorizes the city and parish government the Department of Transportation and Development to prohibit scooter operation if they believe it affects public safety.

SB-91 lays out restrictions for operating the scooter. Riders under 17 years old would be required to wear a helmet, and riders can’t carry anything that would keep them from having both hands on the scooter’s handlebars. In addition, the proposed legislation would require the scooter to have lights and reflectors.

If the bill becomes law, it would take effect August 1, 2019.

The bill comes after rent-to-ride electric scooters showed up in Lafayette in November 2018. Bird and Lime placed dozens a scooters throughout the city, and they appeared to be the talk of the town. However, the scooters were pulled from the streets after Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux said the city could no longer accommodate them, according to news partner KATC.

Baton Rouge had a brief experience with Bird scooters, after three of them were spotted on a sidewalk in the downtown area. The city said the company was not permitted to launch the scooters.

RELATED: Possible accidental delivery of Bird electric scooters has BR officials chirping about its feasibility

In response to the unauthorized launch, Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer expressed concerns over the feasibility of electric scooters. While electric scooters could be a “fun endeavor,” regulations need to be in place first, according to Rhorer.

The Capitol City isn’t opposed to other similar ride-sharing models. After the city selected Gotcha Bikes as its e-bike vendor, plans to launch a fleet of the light blue rent-a-bikes are underway. The official launch date is slated for May 8.

The raise of micro-mobility companies could be due to the the demand for last-mile transportation options. Transit Screen defines “micro-mobility” as a new transportation solution that involves transportation options meant to cover five miles or less of travel.

The start of dockless and shared scooter model reinvigorated the market in 2018 with speedily growing e-scooter companies like Bird and Lime, according to a Forbes article. Bird and Lime became the fastest US companies to reach billion dollar valuations.

But the scooters and bikes have brought public safety concerns from city officials. While New Orleans has a rented bike share operation, city officials pumped the brakes in October 2018 on a pilot program for electric scooters. There have been reports of the scooters being left in the middle of sidewalks and vandalized. The Los Angeles Times reported disgruntled residents finding creative ways to destroy the scooter (which includes setting a scooter ablaze).

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