Electric scooters could be zipping along Colorado Springs' bike lanes and some sidewalks this summer.
The city has heard from e-scooter companies interested in serving Colorado Springs for some time, City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler said. To ensure e-scooters are rolled out safely, the city is planning to put out a request for bids that would require companies to apply to provide services during a trial period that could start this summer, Gaebler said.
“We wanted to create regulation, so they didn’t show up and wreak havoc,” she said.
E-scooters rented via a smartphone have proven a popular option for short trips and helped take cars off congested streets in many cities. But some critics say they are hazardous because riders pass pedestrians too quickly and litter sidewalks when unused.
In Denver, companies rolled out hundreds of scooters in 2018 and riders simply left them along the 16th Street mall and roadway curbs when they finished their travels, The Colorado Sun reported. Rules have since tightened to address some of those problems.
Since the e-scooters were launched in Denver, riders have used them for 3.6 million trips, or an average of about 9,000 trips per day, as of December, said Heather Burke, a spokeswoman for the City and County of Denver. The trips add up to about 4.5 million miles traveled, she said.
Colorado Springs business owner Sam Eppley said he observed e-scooter use in Denver and most riders were responsible, but a few rode too closely to pedestrians and cars.
"It’s kind of a sport to get as close to you as they can and not hit you," said Eppley, owner of Sparrow Hawk Gourmet Cookware on North Tejon Street.
Eppley does not oppose the introduction of e-scooters to Colorado Springs. With traffic and congestion increasing downtown, taking steps to make the city streets bike and scooter friendly could be positive, he said. But he wants to see the city manage e-scooters well and minimize conflicts with pedestrians.
Gaebler said the city plans to ensure e-scooters are kept orderly and “tethered” in the same way residents lock up bicycles to stands, signs and poles when not in use.
E-scooters have spread quickly since they were first launched in 2017, records show. As of July, they were available in 110 cities, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported.
The rules for riding e-scooters during the city’s trial period could mirror state law, which requires the e-scooters to follow rules that apply to bikes, she said.
For example, scooters would be required to use bike lanes in areas where the speed limit is fairly slow -- around 30 mph, Gaebler said. State law also requires e-scooter riders to dismount in areas such as crosswalks to avoid conflicts with pedestrians.
While the e-scooters would likely be popular downtown, their use will be allowed throughout the city, she said.
The city's request for bids to provide e-scooter services is still in draft form and officials have not determined how long the trial period will be, said Colorado Springs spokesman Ted Skroback.
The trial period could help determine how the e-scooter companies may be permitted in the future, he said.
“We’re hoping this trial period will deal with any growing pains,” he said.
Colorado Springs Trails and Open Space Coalition Executive Director Susan Davies said she has been anticipating e-scooters in town.
“We have all been waiting with bated breath,” she said.
The coalition has not taken a position on e-scooters but Davies said she wants to ensure that they are introduced safely.
She expects the e-scooters will be in use on the city’s paved trails, but did not expect to see them on dirt trails because they are not designed for rougher terrain, she said.
“I would not be excited to see them within our open space and parks,” she said.