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Electric scooters in Fresno? The city says it has a plan in the works. Here’s what we know

Editor’s note: Know of an issue that needs fixing in Fresno? Please contact Brianna Calix at bcalix@fresnobee.com

Six months after Fresno City Council asked city staff to work out the kinks on a proposed ordinance to regulate electric scooters, the issue remains unresolved.

It’s now April, so what’s going on?

Back in October, staff was directed to rework those draft regulations for Bird and Lime scooters and return so the companies could begin legal operation quickly.

Popular in many larger cities, e-scooters are small stand-up motorized vehicles that generally are rented on the street through a mobile app.

Here in Fresno, the City Council expects to see an ordinance on e-scooters to vote on within a month, said Mark Standriff, a city spokesman.

City staff is finalizing the ordinance and agreements while working through suggestions and concerns from both local colleges and the scooter companies, Standriff said.

District 3 Council Member Miguel Arias met with both Bird and Lime in his first month in office. He said the delay is the result of city officials viewing the scooters as a nuisance rather than an alternative mode of transportation that could help reduce air pollution.

“Our city isn’t embracing the innovations of entrepreneurs and amenities that millennials want in our communities,” he said. “The initial strong reaction is always to put the brakes on it.”

Arias said he hopes the ordinance has no punitive measures and keeps the ride-sharing programs affordable.

District 4 Councilman Paul Caprioglio in October asked staff to confer with officials at Fresno State since the companies hope to focus their operations near college campuses.

Arias said the first version of the ordinance may provide for a pilot program around Fresno State and Fresno City College.

Lime officials declined to comment for this story, and Bird officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Bird scooters hit Fresno streets with an unexpected splash last August but quickly were banned when the city issued a cease-and-desist letter to the company.

After that, officials from both Bird and Lime expressed a willingness to work with the city.

The ordinance, when it was previously proposed, would have required companies providing the shared mobility devices to obtain a permit with the city. But it also proposed a maximum $1,000 fine or potential jail time for violations and misuse of the scooters — penalties some council members found excessive.

The new shared mobility companies have been met with mixed reactions in other cities, such as San Francisco. And recently, two people have been killed in crashes involving e-scooters.

Many cities banned them before reworking regulations to allow them to operate. Boston last week gave the green light for the e-scooters, and Minneapolis is allowing the fleets to expand.

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.
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