City councilors on Wednesday learned the details of proposed changes to the city’s electric-scooter ordinance and offered a few recommendations of their own.
The ordinance amendment would set the minimum age for users at 16, restrict the number of users per vehicle to one and provide funding to educate the public on the city’s bicycle and electric-scooter regulations.
The ordinance change would also clarify where in the city electric scooters can be ridden on the sidewalk.
Nick Doctor, the city’s chief of community development and policy, told councilors the proposed changes were meant to clarify the existing ordinance and address issues not covered in the original document.
“Bringing the electric scooters to Tulsa is promising to be a very successful endeavor,” Doctor told councilors during a committee meeting.
Lime and Bird began offering electric-scooter rentals in late October and November. Since then, more than 124,000 unique riders have used the services to travel nearly 502,000 miles, Doctor said.
The city based its recommendation in part on the belief that a 16-year-old could reasonably be expected to know the rules and regulations of the road, he said.
That prompted Councilor Connie Dodson to speak up.
“Right now, you can be licensed to ride a motorcycle, which will give you knowledge of those traffic laws and traffic regulations, at 14,” she said.
Dodson said she would like to see the age-limit provision of the ordinance include an exception for those younger than 16 who are licensed to operate a motorcycle.
Speaking after the meeting, Doctor said the city would work to accommodate Dodson’s concern by having that 16-year-old age limit “unless you are otherwise legally licensed to operate a vehicle on the road.”
The existing electric scooter ordinance prohibits their use on sidewalks in “business districts” but provides no specific definitions of those areas. The proposed ordinance change would spell out business districts by name — Inner Dispersal Loop, Cherry Street and Brookside — and provide their boundaries.
The Inner Dispersal Loop is defined as the area of downtown bounded on the east by U.S. 75, on the west and north by Interstate 244, and on the south by Oklahoma 51. Brookside is defined as Peoria Avenue from 31st to 41st streets. Cherry Street is defined as 15th Street from Peoria to Utica avenues.
Doctor said there were two reasons the city prohibits electric scooters and bicycles on sidewalks in those parts of town: the volume of pedestrian traffic and the fact that the speed limits in those areas are relatively low, making it more conducive to operating scooters in the streets.
At the suggestion of City Council Chairman Phil Lakin, Doctor agreed to change the Brookside definition to only that stretch of Peoria Avenue from 31st to 41st streets that has a 25 mph speed limit.
The city charges electric scooter companies licensing and maintenance fees that are used to fix public property damaged by electric scooter users and to maintain the public infrastructure the city has constructed for bicycle and electric scooter users.
Under the proposed ordinance change, approximately $30,000 of that revenue per year would go to educate the public about the city’s bicycle and electric-scooter services and the rules that govern them.
Councilor Lori Decter Wright encouraged Doctor to make sure those education programs reach not only regular local users of those services but also visitors to the city and those who live outside of downtown.
Wright, who represents District 7 in south Tulsa, noted that many people who ride bikes aren’t doing so in the business districts designated in the bicycle and electric-scooter ordinances.
“Outside of the business districts, you can ride your bicycle on the sidewalk,” Wright said. “In south Tulsa, it might be the safest option.”
Councilors also noted that it is important for the public to understand that the city’s bicycle and electric-scooter ordinances pertain only to bicycles and scooters rented from private companies, not privately owned bicycles or electric scooters.
The City Council is expected to vote on the proposed ordinance changes next week.
Lorene Bible on the newly resumed search for her daughter Lauria Bible