Durham County

Durham wants scooters accessible to all

Electric scooters are spreading in the Triangle.

When they arrive in Durham, they won’t just be downtown or just for riders who speak English. The Durham City Council is finalizing regulations and wants to make sure they serve the whole city and Spanish-speaking riders, too.

April Byrd of Bird scooters, which launched scooters in Raleigh and Charlottethis year, said the mobile app for Bird will be in the primary language used on a person’s smartphone. That means Spanish if the person’s phone is set to Spanish language. She has seen the app used with Arabic and German, too.

Bird requires that scooter riders be at least 18, which means a state-issued identification that shows age is required, like a driver’s license, military ID or student ID, Byrd said.

But Durham has Faith IDs distributed through El Centro Hispano that serve Spanish-speaking residents who are not documented.

Whether Bird scooters will take Faith IDs, passports or matricula consular IDs issued by the Mexican government are all questions raised by council member Javiera Caballero and Mayor Steve Schewel. Byrd will get the city the information by the time council is expected to approve the final version of the ordinance at its Oct. 15 meeting.

Byrd said the company has worked with other cities for transportation equity and will do the same with Durham to make sure they are distributed around the city, not just downtown.

Council member Vernetta Alston asked how many scooter accidents have occurred in other cities. Byrd said there have been two in Charlotte since May.

Raleigh Police Department crash reports show 11 scooter accidents between July 21 and Sept. 27.

Bird collects the accident information through their insurance, legal and data teams and would provide the information to the council before it votes on the final ordinance, Byrd said.

Durham’s proposed ordinance says scooter riders must wear helmets.

Who will enforce the rules:

The Durham Police Department will respond to law violations that “present an obvious and immediate risk to public safety” but is otherwise limited because moped operators don’t need a license, affecting the ability to issue citations. The city’s transportation department can pursue civil penalties against the scooter owners and riders.

What Durham’s ordinance will cost scooter companies:

$1,000 for permit application.

$100 per scooter on the street.

$25 per bike.

$50 for each device the city has to relocate for the company.

$500 to renew annual permit.

What the Durham Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission wants:

A financial penalty for unregulated, unauthorized vendors that deploy devices on city/county property.

Require providers to include instructions not just in English, but in Spanish, too, on the devices and mobile apps.

Consider scooter and bike parking spaces.

Make regulations consistent about use on greenways. City code prohibits “motorized vehicles” on shared use trails.

“Prohibiting e-bicycle and e-scooter access to shared use trails unnecessarily restricts popular safe transportation corridors for operators using these vehicle types to commute,” wrote Jeremy Thornhill, chair of the advisory commission, in the report.

Wake County scooters

A few Bird scooters popped up in Cary this week, which has no rules for them.

“We’re in the process of learning from the experiences of our neighbors, trying to understand gaps in our state laws and/or ordinances, and considering options to meet the needs of our citizens while also protecting their safety,” Cary spokeswoman Deanna Hawkes said.

Raleigh, which is still working on a draft ordinance, got its second e-scooter company when Lime scooters launched in September. Bird scooters arrived in Raleigh in July.

The city will unveil its draft regulations Oct. 16, but has been waiting to see Durham and in Charlotte propose, said Raleigh Transportation Director Michael Moore.

At least one council member, Dickie Thompson, called for an outright ban, but city leaders eventually called for a 30-day window to create regulations and ask that electric scooters comply.

“We’re finding everyone has the same situation, but not everyone has a very comprehensive set of answers,” Moore said.

The scooters are meant for streets or bicycle lanes though riders often use sidewalks, prompting some officials to ask how the city will be compensated for enforcing the rules.

The regulations will address that, Moore said.

Reporter Joe Johnson contributed to this story.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan
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