ST. GEORGE — People in St. George will have another way to get around town with the upcoming launch of an electronic scooter sharing system.
City officials have been meeting with representatives of San Francisco-based startup Lime to bring the company’s fleet of pay-as-you-go electronic scooters to St. George, planned tentatively for launch in late October.
In a presentation Thursday before the City Council, Lime Operations Manager Jon Anderson explained how the scooter sharing system works.
The battery-powered scooters are parked throughout the city and unlocked via an app available for Android smartphones and iPhones. Each scooter is equipped with GPS, and a map within the app shows the user the exact location of nearby scooters.
Scooters are unlocked after the renter scans a QR code and pays $1. Use of the scooter costs 15 cents per minute thereafter, which comes to $9 per hour.
Before a scooter is unlocked, the user is required to go through a safety checklist that encourages helmet use. The company only rents to people age 18 and older, and if they find out a minor child is using it, the app will be shut off to that user or their parents.
Once a user is done with a scooter, it can be parked where they get off it, under a few conditions.
“You can essentially leave these anywhere you like as long as it’s in a safe place for pedestrians to walk by or an ADA ramp isn’t blocked,” Anderson said. “That’s a little bit of a learning curve. People are used to a dock system.”
If someone finds a scooter parked inappropriately, such as on the sidewalk, in a street or in front of a ramp, a phone number listed on the scooter will alert Lime to the problem and an employee will arrive to move it within approximately five minutes.
In addition to hiring traditional employees based in a warehouse in downtown St. George, the company contracts with people they refer to as “juicers” to pick up the scooters at night and charge them at their home, earning anywhere from $3-$20 per scooter after they’re placed back out in the city before 8 a.m. each morning.
“They’re kind of like Uber drivers,” Anderson said of the juicers. “We have guys that are making quite a bit of money because we give them a permit essentially to gather more scooters for us. They’ll grab 20 or 30 of them and charge them at their house.”
Lime’s scooter sharing program launched last year with the backing of hundreds of millions of dollars from investors and is already in use in cities across the U.S. and Europe, such as Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Diego, Berlin and Paris.
So far in Utah, the program has launched in Salt Lake City and nearby suburbs. St. George will be the second area in the state to adopt the program.
Unlike programs that require docking stations, such as the Zagster bike share program currently active in St. George, Lime assumes the entire cost of the program, requiring no monetary contribution from the city.
Before the program launches in St. George, City Attorney Shawn Guzman will be working to draft an operating agreement between the city and Lime that includes stipulations about where the scooters can be used and parked. Tentatively, the scooters will be allowed on sidewalks and paved trails.
An ordinance establishing laws about parking, street use and citation possibilities will also eventually be drafted once the city has had a chance to see how the program works out, Guzman said.
The scooters can reach a maximum speed of 15-17 mph, which St. George Support Services Director Marc Mortensen said is comparable to the speed of bicyclists, who are also allowed to ride on the sidewalk. Collisions between riders and pedestrians have been known to happen, Mortensen said, noting that the scooters are equipped with a bell and headlight for riders to alert vehicles or pedestrians of their presence.
Mortensen tested the scooter on a recent trip to Salt Lake City, along with Mayor Jon Pike and City Manager Adam Lenhard. He said people from all walks of life were using the scooters, whether for recreation or just to get around.
“Women in high heels and skirts were on it. Businessmen with briefcases. Businesswomen in suits,” Mortensen said. “You name it, all demographics were riding this.”
He said the program is ideal for St. George in that it will get people outdoors and acts as an alternative to cars for transportation.
“We like it from the standpoint that it can reduce a car trip by taking a scooter without working up a sweat,” he said.
Mortensen said the program will likely be most popular with tourists and students at Dixie State University, where school officials are working enthusiastically to help launch the scooter system. He said it will also expand people’s access to the Suntran bus system, with scooters placed in areas and neighborhoods that are too far from bus stops to reasonably walk.
“Let’s do it; I think it’s great,” Pike said at the conclusion of the presentation.
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