Council weighs extending ban on dockless scooters 

Dockless scooters await use in this photo posted by a Nashville law firm seeking clients. (Photo Rockylawfirm.com)

In the same spirit by which Chattanooga defies the future and impedes interstate commerce by banning Airbnb, members of city council are considering extending a prohibition on dockless electric scooters that promise a radical upgrading of private mobility..

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7 FM

Darrin Ledford, a self-styled conservative, wants to conserve existing modes of travel and transportation by keeping the rent-by-the minute scooters out of Chattanooga for now. His is a health and individual safety rationale.

Companies put out fleets of scooters that are lit by use of a smartphone and credit card, and left on the sidewalk or by doorways when the users have arrived at their destination. They are convenient because the user doesn’t have to return it to a central dock or portal.

“Councilman Smith and I putting forth legislation to extend the moratorium on scooters as we not yet been presented with any kind of information that we feel like the city is warranted and in a dire need of them.”

Mr. Ledford offers the following explanation of his thinking.

“I think we need to look at the safety factor for our citizens. I mean, the roads are in horrible condition. Everyone agrees with that. And now we’re  asking to put electric powered vehicles onto our city streets that are not well equipped to handle them at ll or designed for it. And, frankly, I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

How long might a moratorium last? A year? “Nothing is forever,” Mr. Ledford says. “I believe in life. Once things I think develop down the road — but right now, the risk of injury — it’s just not worth it for me to have people run over by cars on our city streets because we decided it was cool to do something because all the other kids are doing it. I put people’s lives more ahead of that than a fad.”

Council member Erskine Oglesby wants an extended ban on the marketplace and believes it is the council’s duty to help keep the industry at bay while the public learns more about dockless scooters and their opportunities.

He had been involved in the body’s first efforts to regulate the nascent “last-mile transportation” industry typified by Lime, Bird and Spin.

No boon to poor?

“My thing on the initial presentation of it was that it was out there, and nobody was taking any action,” Mr. Oglesby recounts. “So I felt it was the responsibility that it needed to be put on the books so that we could discuss it and vote so there would be something tangible for us to act by. So that was initially the reason. We have been talking about it for weeks. So I felt we needed to do something official on it. What happened was that it created the six month moratorium. And now councilman Ledford and councilman Smith are seeking something a little longer. So that was in essence, action needed to be taken initially and I took the lead on that.

Would not dockless scooters help the poor, as everyone has smart phones and almost everyone has a credit card? 

“Yeah, I know of a lot of people, particularly those for alternative modes of transportation, and this could be one of them. But I just believe some more work needs to be done so people can be comfortable. Right now there’s a lot of things out there, the perception that need to be cleared up, so they can be widely accepted in a city.”

“I’m concerned for safety hazards. That could be injuries, that could be property damage, that could be a lot of things. I think a lot of that needs to be cleared up so people can be comfortable. And more important than being comfortable is being relaxed and responsible in the use of those alternative modes of transportation.”

Council member Anthony Byrd agrees. 

“I will support it. I just feel Chattanooga doesn’t need that at this time. I went to Nashville and saw the clutter on the streets and saw the dysfunction of how it was acting and how it was going in the city. I just didn’t appreciate it. I don’t think the city of Chattanooga needs to deal with something of that nature.”

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