EUGENE, Ore. -- With Eugene considering bringing a rentable electric scooter pilot program to city streets, a mobility expert at the University of Oregon thinks e-scooters would be a good fit for the community.
Rentable e-scooters have made their way to many major cities across the country. Headlines warned of parked scooters crowding sidewalks and unsafe drivers. While the initial splash of e-scooter companies overwhelmed some cities, city staff say they are taking an approach that will avoid some of those complications.
"In some cities, these companies would put a lot of scooters out. Here in Eugene, we wanted to take a more deliberate approach where we could invite companies to come in and offer scooters for rent on the city's terms and a way that complies with the city's values," said transportation planning manager Rob Inerfeld.
According to University of Oregon professor Marc Schlossberg, the rollout of e-scooters countrywide has been overwhelmingly positive. In 2018, Americans took 38.5 million trips on e-scooters, signaling an unmet demand for short-range transportation options. He also said research shows that users overwhelmingly park and use their scooters properly.
While inconvenient parking practices and users driving on sidewalks does occur, Schlossberg said infrastructure changes can encourage proper use.
"They go to the sidewalk if they feel the street is too unsafe to use," he said. "So it's absolutely critical for the city of Eugene as we welcome scooters in to actually add a significant amount of protected lanes on our streets for scooters and for bikes for our community, and that will create order."
Schlossberg also pointed towards Eugene's Climate Recovery Ordinance as a signal that the community is asking for greener transportation options. The ordinance states that by 2030 community fossil fuel use should fall to 50% of 2010 levels.
The city is currently taking public input on the pilot program on the Engage Eugene website. By winter, Inerfeld hopes to bring ordinances creating a new vehicle classification for scooter-like devices as well as allowing them to operate on shared-use paths to the city council. Infrastructure improvements like designated e-scooter parking areas are also under consideration.
If the council approves the ordinances, a request for proposals will be sent out to various e-scooter companies. The city will decide which company will ultimately be allowed based on criteria like community values, sustainability and which companies are best able to enforce parking and safety rules.
Scooters could be on the streets as early as spring 2020.