Scooter ride-sharing banned in Nags Head

Nags Head Commissioners voted to prohibit any e-scooter ride-share programs within town limits during their October 3 regular session meeting.

Being promoted as an exciting answer to short distance transportation issues, e-scooters are battery operated motor vehicles with an operating range of up to 20 miles and capable of moving along at about 15 miles per hour, a speed similar to that of a serious bicyclist. With California companies LimeBike and Bird expanding nationally, the devices are already in larger North Carolina municipalities like Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro and Raleigh.

A self-service program with powered scooters for hire, riders can locate a vehicle in the area through a free phone app and be on their way in a matter of moments. Using them, however, is not free. After downloading the app, users need to scan their driver’s license, add a credit card and pay $1 to unlock a bike, along with per-minute use fees of 15 or 20 cents depending on location.

Although both companies set guidelines for use and advertise working closely with cities to help make transportation better and more environmentally friendly with zero cost to a city, the reality is proving to be a little different.

“From what I’ve read,” said Mayor Ben Cahoon, “the business model seems to be a mass drop of scooters without any prior discussion into an area, which forces the community to use its own resources to figure out what the rules need to be and to clean up the problem.”

In August, the Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend that these programs be prohibited within the town due to a growing number of concerns about safety, local oversight and maintenance. These concerns included no local business office or staff, limited education provided on the use of the scooter, helmets being recommended but not required or provided, no guidance specific to the municipality on where the scooters can be operated and no plan in place to address where these scooters are to be dropped off or will be stored during inclement weather.

With no established docking stations, people are free to leave the devices almost anywhere.

Citing safety concerns, no enforceable rules on how or where they should be ridden, no inclement weather plan and the fact that they cannot be used on the town’s multi-use paths, the board adopted an ordinance that defined “powered scooter” and then prohibited them. During discussion, however, it was mentioned that the door was not closed on the idea, provided such a company would contact the town to work out any related details and issues before setting up shop.

A number of other cities across the country have already banned e-scooters and several, including Nashville and Virginia Beach, have impounded them until they could develop regulations.