Agreements signed for Lockhart soccer-park site, mega-yacht marina

With the summer months upon us, I’m sure many of us have already made plans to slow down our pace and maybe even spend some time away from the heat and humidity. This is also a time when getting a reservation at a restaurant or a seat at the movie theater should be a little easier. It’s also traditionally a time when traffic is a little lighter.

Helping reduce traffic congestion was part of the theory behind electric scooters. Would fewer people drive their cars and instead use the scooter as an alternative? Since its inception, last fall, some 1 million rides have been logged in the city. 

With their popularity, scooters have removed traffic that would have occurred on our congested streets. Some residents use scooters for short trips rather than driving their car, while some tourists have used scooters instead of taxis or ride-share applications. 

Nonetheless, electric scooters have deeply divided public opinion. Many love their convenience, but many others see them as a dangerous nuisance. At the beginning, state law only allowed them to travel on the sidewalks. But now, things have changed.

Legislators in Tallahassee recently gave cities greater authority to regulate scooters. As a result, the rest of the City Commission and I have instructed our staff and legal team to come up with some stronger rules ensuring our streets and sidewalks are as safe as possible. 

The city manager and I lobbied lawmakers heavily so the city would gain the authority to set our own rules. Some legislators did not want cities to have any authority, but we made sure Fort Lauderdale’s interests were protected as much as possible during meetings with the leadership of the Legislature, local lawmakers and sponsors of the bill. 

So, with the new law, what does the city plan to do to improve safety? 

First, we want to protect pedestrians on the beach and Las Olas. We are looking to prohibit the use of scooters on the sidewalks in those two areas. Instead, we would require they be ridden in the bike lanes. This is a very needed change because these areas are where most of our complaints occur. 

Second, staff is working on ordinance language to better utilize technology built into the scooters. They are considering if we could create zones with special speed limits and prohibitions on parking. 

We also are looking at prohibiting the parking of scooters on sidewalks that are less than 5 feet wide. And, we would update the “high-impact event ordinance” that we used to prohibit scooters on the barrier island during Spring Break. We cannot allow scooters to interfere with the quality of life many enjoy through the pedestrian experience on our beach and in our shopping districts.

Finally, staff is drafting an overhaul of the permitting process for the companies offering scooters in the city. 

The goal is to choose firms that are the most capable of following through on promises about usage and parking. We also would charge more for the permits so the city can increase enforcement and provide more education for riders. 

Some common-sense solutions that many residents have suggested, though, appear to have been banned by the state. The state said a scooter rider does not need a driver’s license, nor did they agree to age restrictions. We’re required to treat scooters like bicycles in those respects. 

A set of proposed regulations should be ready for the City Commission to consider shortly after we return from our summer break in late August. 

Scooters may be part of the fabric of the community now, but as the leaders of the community, we are committed to ensuring our city streets and sidewalks are safe for all who use them. I look forward to approving the regulations as soon as possible.

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