Implementing New Scooter Rules in Time for Spring Break

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Implementing New Scooter Rules in Time for Spring Break:

Ensuring reporting is easy, effective, trackable

UPDATE: Passed its second and final reading on March 4. The ordinance is now law.

The devil, as they say, is in the details. When the Miami Beach City Commission reversed its ban on scooter rentals during spring break, Commissioner John Alemán, the sponsor of the ban, said she was willing to give new regulations a try, but when she asked about implementation of those rules, she wasn’t satisfied. This week she’s introducing an ordinance that further clarifies how the registration of scooters and reporting of bad behavior will work. The scooter companies say they will abide by the terms of her ordinance even before any votes are taken on it.
The ban was originally proposed following complaints of riders exhibiting dangerous behavior including weaving in and out of traffic, riding in bike lanes and on sidewalks, driving on the wrong side of the road, and taking selfies while operating the scooters. The compromise legislation passed last month requires GPS tracking devices on all rental scooters along with the phone number of the company that rented it. Juan-Carlos Planas who represents a number of scooter companies on the Beach told Commissioners, “So if an officer sees a bad actor on a scooter, he calls the number” and the scooter can be turned off. “Once they shut it off, it’s shut off for good.” Planas said renters will get instructions detailing the City Code with regard to operating scooters and the scooter companies will have “rovers” out on the street ensuring rules are being followed. 
When Alemán followed up on the implementation plan, she said, what was explained to her “was completely impractical and would not have met the intention of the ordinance.”
“Each operator would have had their [own] phone number and so a person calling in would have to know what company and/or what phone and the vehicle number and that’s a lot to try to figure out as a vehicle goes by you at 20 or 30 miles an hour,” she said.
Her ordinance assigns one alphabetical character to each scooter company as the first character in each unique device ID followed by two numerical characters. Each ID must be affixed to the front, left rear side and right rear side in lettering that is a minimum of four inches in height and in a contrasting color to the scooter to which it is affixed and cannot be in a location that would be obscured by a rider or passenger. It also requires monthly reporting on the number of scooters disabled for improper operation.
Alemán said having the unique identifiers will make it easy for police to know who a scooter belongs to when an officer or someone else calls in a complaint. She said there will be one number to call, something else that will simplify reporting.
Planas said he had not yet seen the ordinance but he and the scooter operators “had a very good meeting with [Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates] and to my understanding everything that’s coming next week is a result of that meeting. All the scooter companies are going to renumber their scooters based on what the Chief wanted.”
He said Oates was “happy” with the new addendum to the rental contract. “That’s the important thing. This is what the renters are going to sign.” The addendum puts renters on notice, Planas said. “If you mess up, this ends immediately.”
Planas also said operators will be informing renters that “Any call from any City official is taken at face value… Calls that come in from other types, obviously, those will be scrutinized.” But any “calls from a Commissioner, Code Enforcement, Police Officer, a trash truck driver, that will be taken at face value and the rental will be terminated.”
He emphasized, “My guys want to work with the City and our hope is that we create something that other cities like Panama City [another big Spring Break destination that has experienced issues in recent years] can use to not have to ban scooters. I think there’s an alternative to stopping what is a lawful business and that is providing common sense regulations that put the onus on the renter.”
With less than one hundred scooters per operator, Planas said it will be easy to create the unique IDs which he said will be ready in time for Spring Break even without formal passage of Alemán’s ordinance. Referring back to his meeting with Oates in which the ground rules were set, Planas said, “The fact that those ground rules are going to be codified, that’s awesome, but we’re going to keep our word to the Chief.”
“What this is going to affect more than anything are going to be the knuckleheads that have decided not to participate with our group,” he said. There are “2 or 3 out of the 12” total who are not participating with the group in implementing the new rules. “They will all be informed of this. They will all have to comply with this but, at the end of the day, if they’re not in compliance they’re going to be shut down by the City.”
Looking ahead to March, he said, the first week is “going to be a giant beta test” leading into the heaviest week which is projected to be the second week of the month.
“All of this is more than fair,” Planas said. “Commissioner Alemán has been wonderful. At the end of the day, what she wanted was to make the City safe and because of communication and willingness on both parts, we’re going to make the City safe by preserving what really is the most fun and easy way to see the city as a tourist.” 
“If what we can do is be a model for other communities, even better,” Planas said.
For her part, Alemán said she’s remaining vigilant. “I'm not letting go of this issue. I'm not playing games on this issue. If we don’t see a difference in behavior, we’re going to have to ban the scooters.”
Her ordinance can be found here.


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