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ABQ councilors approve shared transportation vehicle ordinance

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Residents will soon start seeing electric scooters and other kinds of shared transportation options around the city.

Albuquerque city councilors on Monday approved an ordinance allowing shared transportation vehicles, such as bicycles, scooters, e-bikes, e-scooters and other small, wheeled vehicles, to operate in public rights of way. The vote was 8-1, with Councilor Issac Benton in opposition.

Sponsored by Councilor Pat Davis, the ordinance gives operators of those small vehicles, designed specifically for shared use, the same rights as users of bicycles on city streets, highways, roadways and sidewalks.

The ordinance also includes other provisions, such as requiring vendors of shared transportation services to undertake a permitting process and city approval for the location of stations where vehicles are available for consumer use.

Vendors would pay an annual fee for each station within any city-owned property, public space or right of way, as well as a daily fee for each small vehicle in service.

People take electric scooters for a ride Monday afternoon at Civic Plaza during a demonstration with city employees. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“It’s good for Albuquerque because there are just a handful of cities in the country that are innovating these types of transportation programs,” Davis told the Journal. “They’re popular with millennials. It’s going to be a big deal for Albuquerque, in terms of putting us on the map as a city as innovative as Denver, San Francisco and Seattle, but also providing extra transit options for people who can’t yet connect to the bike system or bus system.”

Benton expressed concern regarding the city’s liability and legal protection, as well as the Albuquerque Police Department’s ability to enforce new regulations for a new kind of transportation. APD Chief of Staff John Ross told councilors the department was ready to enforce any laws on the books.

Benton said the use of rights of way is a sensitive matter and that the city has been careful in the past in how it regulates those rights of way.

“I’m not of the opinion that we’re ready to put something in effect,” Benton told councilors. “I’d like to see (Davis’ bill) as a starting point from where we are. I think we have a ways to go.”

A bill, sponsored by Benton, that would have declared a moratorium on operation of new shared bicycle or electric scooter services for three months, or until a regulatory framework was established, died for lack of a second.

With the council’s approval of the ordinance, officials from San Francisco-based Lime announced it will soon commence a shared scooter operation in the city.

“We are excited and hopeful for the opportunity to serve Albuquerque by providing accessible mobility options,” said Sam Dreiman, director of strategic development for Lime, in a statement. “Lime has helped hundreds of communities improve local transportation through sustainable scooter share, and we look forward to integrating ourselves into the community and working with city leadership to best fill Albuquerque’s unique transportation needs.”

Tim Harter, senior manager of government relations with Bird Electric Scooters, prepares to go for a ride during a demonstration for Albuquerque city employees. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Lime-S scooters cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute of riding.

The company also offers Lime Access, an affordability program, to improve transportation access. Lime Access riders can unlock any Lime product without a smartphone or purchase Lime credit with cash in partnership with PayNearMe, and receive a 50 percent discount on every ride.

All of Lime’s scooters are GPS- and 3G-enabled, making it simple for riders to find, unlock and pick up a nearby vehicle using their smartphone. Riders finish the ride with the Lime mobile app and park by the street curb or at a bike rack.

Lime-S riders must be 18 years or older, have a valid driver’s license and wear a helmet.