Surprise Council paves way for e-scooters

Pilot program starts Nov. 1 in City Center


Surprise residents — especially Ottawa University Arizona students — will soon have a new way to get around the City Center.

The City Council approved a pilot program Oct. 1 to bring e- scooters and e-bikes to a small part of the city, months after the state allowed municipalities to regulate them like bicycles.

Starting Friday, Nov. 1, residents will start seeing electric scooters mostly in the City Center square mile from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.

The Council approved the pilot program by a 5-2 vote, with Mayor Skip Hall and District 4 Councilman Ken Remley voting against it.

The pilot program will allow an unlimited amount of vendors to contract with the city to deploy a total of 100 so- called Shared Active Transportation Vehicle or SATVs which include pedal bikes, electric bikes, dockless bike-share and electric scooters.

At least one local company, headed by Surprise resident Clayton Bedoya, plans to put 30 vehicles in use after putting them out for a trial run last month.

Mr. Bedoya’s company tested about 190 trips over five days before city staff decided to end the program and ask the City Council for guidance on regulations for technology that’s not even a decade old.

Dockless e- scooters and e-bikes use an appbased technology to allow end-users to rent each vehicle for short trips.

The City Council voted to enact its pilot program just months after the Arizona Legislature passed Senate Bill 1398 that outlined definitions and regulations for electric stand-up scooters that basically made them like bicycles.

Phoenix began a pilot program in September, while Peoria, Tempe, Mesa, Tucson and Gilbert are also working on their own versions.

What’s the problem?

The problems with SATVs is they can block sidewalks, cause tripping hazards and create visual clutter.

“The biggest pushback

I have received is the clutter,” District 6 Councilman Chris Judd said. “We don’t want the eyesore. We don’t want bikes strewn wherever.”

Mr. Bedoya said it will take some education for people to get use to using and seeing them.

“People know if they want to keep something they got to keep it nice,” Mr. Bedoya said. “The last thing we want to do is make it look horrible. We want this to be a benefit for the community — not a burden.”

Vice Mayor Roland Winters told Mr. Bedoya to prepared to take some heat.

“You know if they start getting scattered around the city, you’re going to be put on the spot,” Mr. Winters told him.

The pilot program is designed to help deal with those problems.

Some other cities are designing specific parking or corrals for e-scooters and e-bikes — with and without paving markings. Some have converted traditional bike racks into parking.

District 3 Councilman Patrick Duffy joked that it might not even matter.

“We can’t even put shopping carts away,” Mr. Duffy said.

New mode

However, the new transportation mode has several advantages for users: It’sconvenient, good for short trips, operates as a first mile/ last mile connection to transit, relieves congestion and is environmentally friendly.

Under Surprise’s rules, only adults can ride the vehicles — with the maximum speed set at 12 miles per hour for e-scooters and 20 miles per hour for e-bikes.

The regulations call for any illegal parked vehicle to be removed within two hours of notice.

If a vehicle poses a risk, city staff will remove it for a $25 fee to the vendor.

It will cost any vendor $5,000 to operate for six months, plus a cost of $2.50 a month for each e-scooter or e-bike in circulation.

Surprise is allowing a maximum of 100 total, while for comparison Phoenix allows 300 and Tempe has no limit. The boundary for use will be limited to Surprise City Center, Surprise Stadium and major commercial centers, thanks to geofencing that will allow them to only operate in the designated areas. If a rider goes outside the boundary, the vehicle will automatically slow or stop.

Mr. Bedoya said it would roughly cost a rider on one of his scooters about $5 to go from the hotels in the City Center to In-N-Out Burger, 14321W. Bell Road.

City Attorney Robert Wingo said insurance should cover the risk to the city. He said the point of passing an ordinance is to cover insurance, indemnity, costs and other associated liabilities.

“I have some serious reservations concerning these vehicles, “ Mr. Remley said. “Where is there a demonstrated need in Surprise for any kind of program for these types of vehicles?”

Editor’s note: Jason Stone can be reached at 623-445-2805, on email at jstone@newszap.com or on Twitter at (ffithestonecave. Visit yourvalley.net.