Shared scooters, mopeds, bikes frozen out of reopening
While restaurants, barbershops, beaches and more are reopening as Miami-Dade moves to a New Normal, a county order prohibiting common-use micro-mobility options such as shared scooters, mopeds and bikes remains in place.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s executive order banning the use of such devices took effect March 18. His office told Miami Today via email that guidelines had been drafted and are pending approval, but there’s no date for lifting the executive order.
A county release said the order reduces the spread of Covid-19 on frequently touched surfaces. That explanation, however, is being challenged by shared micro-mobility companies.
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that the virus spreads mainly through person-to-person contact. The guidelines say touching a surface or object with the virus isn’t the primary way the virus spreads, though it’s possible.
After a caller asked at last week’s Miami city commission meeting when shared scooters and mopeds would be reinstated, City Manager Art Noriega said the county hasn’t given the city a timeline for the return of common-use micro-mobility other than it may be within two to three weeks.
Commissioner Ken Russell, whose district serves as the testing grounds for the city’s scooter pilot, told Miami Today he was surprised when the county order went into effect.
“I was at that time in the process of working with the scooter companies on disinfecting and protocols to allow for safe use,” he said. “I was actually of the opinion that this is a very safe method of transportation combined with social distancing, much more so than an Uber or a taxi.”
While some oppose the way scooters clutter city sidewalks and that users ride them irresponsibly, he said that some depend on them for their daily commute, including some who do not own cars.
Before Covid-19, the city was in a competitive solicitation process for a permanent scooter pilot that would winnow the nine scooter vendors in the city to no more than four, as well as cutting the number of scooters from more than 4,000 to just under 2,500. However, that process has been interrupted, Mr. Russell said.
Mr. Russell also said the city may have to extend the pilot’s time frame to make up for the lost time.
Having the scooters offline has also resulted in a revenue shortfall for the city, because operators were paying the city $1 per scooter per day. Mr. Russell said the program has generated $1 million. Those funds are to go toward establishing a circuit of bicycle lanes downtown, he said.
The City of Coral Gables has 150 scooters from two vendors, according to an email response from Assistant Public Works Director Jessica Keller.
“The city is interested in reinstating scooters so we may provide expanded transportation options to the public,” she responded. “The city has maintained transit service and Freebee [an on-demand service] to users during the pandemic.
Uhriel Bedoya, the Florida general manager for Lime, the company is eager to release its scooter fleet for customers. He pointed to the CDC guidelines indicating low transmission through surface contact. He said micro-mobility options had been repurposed to help essential workers in other cities around the nation.
“Other cities and other counties have taken seriously the issue that we are providing a solution…,” he said, “and the surface transmission they are not as concerned; it’s not an argument that they buy.”
Mr. Bedoya argued that the county order has also affected those who were employed by Lime.
Lime had staffed about seven workers in the county but is down to one. That doesn’t include Juicers, who pick up Lime’s scooters in the night and recharge them. They are part of the gig economy, working on their own schedule.
Mr. Bedoya said Lime is hoping the City of Miami selects it at the end of the solicitation process. However, he said, it’s hard to bid for a spot without scooters on the streets. He said that by being operational, Lime could gather information to serve city residents better:
“I’m confident – I’m speaking here for Lime – based on what we’ve done and the protocols that we follow that we can do this safely and ensure the safety of riders as we continue to fight this pandemic.”