City DopeNews

ACC Committee Debates: To Scoot or Not to Scoot?

They seemed to leave almost as swiftly as they arrived, but electric scooters could soon be flocking again in Athens when a moratorium ends in June.

ACC assistant attorney Sherrie Hines, who calls them “shareable dockless mobility devices,” is working on what could become a pilot program. Having already talked with the Mayor and Commission and the Legislative Review Committee, she outlined her progress last week to members of Athens in Motion, the commission-appointed committee of volunteers working on pedestrian and bicycle issues.

“The Mayor and Commission clearly had questions, and there was some uncertainty about whether we should bring back the scooters,” Hines said. “We may move forward with an RFP or a recommendation that we shouldn’t bring them back to Athens. We want to do the right thing, not rush and have a bad result.”

UGA banned the scooters almost immediately when they landed, and it isn’t likely to change its position. Electric scooters are also banned on the Greenway, which allows only service vehicles doing maintenance. In contrast, Georgia Southern University allows e-scooters on its campus, where sidewalks are much wider than on UGA’s campus, and where the terrain is mostly flat, not hilly.

The way the dockless devices are designed, users can’t signal while they are driving, as cyclists do, and they can’t see after dark, since the scooters don’t have lights. So, if the county sends out RFPs, the vendors who participate in a pilot program should plan to operate them from dawn to dusk and to provide a 24-hour service help number, Hines said.

Scooter vendors don’t make money renting the devices; they make money selling data to third parties about where and when a user travels, Hines said. If the local government collects the data, an open records request would make it public. This detail troubled most of the committee, but the specifics of data collection haven’t been set. “With geospatial data, they can figure out what you did your whole day,” Hines said.

Athens in Motion Chairperson Carol Myers said the committee will discuss and review the information and will likely make a recommendation “in a couple of months.”