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Little Rock board approves rule tweaks, revenue collection on scooters

by Joseph Flaherty | December 2, 2020 at 3:52 a.m.
FILE — Little Rock City Hall is shown in this 2019 file photo.

Little Rock city directors on Tuesday approved a revised version of an ordinance changing the rules of the road for users of the popular and polarizing scooters from technology company Lime, while at the same time authorizing the city to begin collecting revenue from shared-scooter companies.

The ordinance was amended to restrict scooters to just one rider apiece, mandate helmets for riders under 18 and attempt to keep them out of certain neighborhoods based on zoning, though Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said the rules will be a challenge to enforce.

City directors had deferred action on the ordinance from a meeting last month, and Scott previously urged them to consider the revenue-collection aspect of the ordinance. On Tuesday, he cautioned them not to let their concerns, as expressed through amendments, lead them to effectively ban Lime from the city.

"The ordinance is to obtain revenue," Scott told board members.

Members of the Little Rock Board of Directors approved the ordinance in a voice vote.

Although riders currently must travel on the sidewalk, the newly approved ordinance requires riders to travel in the street and to use bicycle lanes where they are available.

The ordinance allows the city to designate certain areas where riders can travel on the sidewalk.

The ordinance, which applies to Lime as well as other shared-scooter companies, will take effect automatically on Jan. 1, City Attorney Tom Carpenter said during Tuesday's meeting.

At-large City Director Dean Kumpuris, a physician, urged city directors to adopt more stringent safety requirements.

Though he acknowledged that state law limits the city's ability to act on the scooters, Kumpuris asked, "Is the money worth the increased risk -- or my perception of the increased risk -- to the citizens of our community and the districts of our community?"

Scott said he understood Kumpuris' point of view as a doctor, but the mayor added, "Your ordinances would be literally banning something that's nationwide, and I don't know [if] that's something this city wants to ... lay our hat on."

Two amendments to the ordinance from Kumpuris were approved by the board, one restricting shared scooters to only one rider at a time and another that said a shared scooter cannot be operated by a person under the age of 18 unless the person is wearing a helmet.

Under the terms of the ordinance, the city will charge a device fee of $75 per scooter in Little Rock, plus a $10,000 annual franchise fee for each scooter-service operator, such as Lime.

Kumpuris withdrew a proposed amendment related to front and rear illumination as well as turn signals for the scooters.

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