Durham closing in on scooter regulations

— City officials on Thursday discussed what they see as inevitable – electric scooters in Durham.

Scooters are a popular mode of transportation in Raleigh, but they have also been met with criticism over safety, as people ride them without helmets or on sidewalks among pedestrians.

Three vendors – Bird, Lime and Spin – have expressed interest in bringing electric scooters to Durham, but city officials have been working for months on an ordinance to regulate them before they arrive.

“This will be the first ordinance in the state of North Carolina,” said Bryan Poole, city transportation planner. “No other city has an ordinance. We, fortunately, have been able to follow other cities this time around. When we were doing dockless bike shares, we were one of the first cities in the country [implementing them].”

The proposed ordinances are designed to ensure vendor accountability and public safety.

“Once the ordinance is passed, it will establish a permit process, which means no scooters can be on the streets until they meet the requirements of the permit and are issued a permit,” Poole said.

April Byrd, a representative for Bird, who was at a Durham City Council work session Thursday to answer questions, said only two scooter accidents have been reported in Charlotte, “and we’ve been operating there since May.”

Durham officials said they also want to prevent scooters from destroying the market for dockless bikes, which has happened in other cities.

The Durham City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance at its Oct. 15 meeting.

After that, Poole said, he expects companies to apply immediately for permits, adding that it likely will take a few weeks before scooters actually show up on Durham streets.

“I think it would be perfect,” said Rachael Nichols, an Apex resident who works in Durham. “[It‘s] an easy way to get around and something new and innovative and fun.”

Karl Sabourin, who was visiting Durham from Boston, where scooters are already in use, said he could do without them.

“It’s one of those things,” Sabourin said. “They’re there. They’re great for some folks, not for me. I’d rather ride a bike than take a scooter.”

Bird already has scooters in Raleigh, but the Raleigh City Council expects to review its own ordinance regulating them at its Oct. 16 meeting.