If you’ve been anywhere near Downtown Fort Lauderdale within the past month, you’ve seen scooters zipping by, parked on a curb or being gawked at by intrigued folks.
Shortly after California-based transportation rental company Lime dropped 500 scooters on Fort Lauderdale streets in early November, competitors Bird and Bolt joined the party, adding hundreds more from their respective fleets. All of the scooters may be “unlocked” via their respective apps for one dollar, with each minute of a ride costing 15 cents (or 20 cents on Bird).
According to Jed Fluxman, general manager of Lime Florida, more than 14,000 unique riders covered nearly 48,000 miles within Lime's first three weeks in the city.
“Riders in Fort Lauderdale have embraced Lime’s electric scooters,” he said. “We’re proud to be the city’s first scooter provider, meeting users’ demand for reliable and affordable transportation.” While numbers were not disclosed by Bird or Bolt representatives, in a note to New Times, Bird added, “We have been thrilled to see the people of Fort Lauderdale trade short car trips for zero emissions Bird rides."
But while thousands of riders have quickly taken to their newfound convenience, many Fort Lauderdale residents have expressed disapproval at some of the nuisances associated with the scooters. Complaints are beginning to appear on the neighborhood social networking site, Nextdoor, with increasing frequency.
Victoria Park resident Joanna Ribner noted in her post that, “[scooters] are being dropped all over the area." She tells New Times that she first began seeing the scooters strewn about her neighborhood over Thanksgiving weekend and has already narrowly avoided a near-collision with riders. "We saw a bunch of teenagers doing tricks on the scooters, going through the stop sign," she says. "I nearly hit one. I stopped and another lady almost hit them from the other direction, 'cause they were videotaping each other."
Similar to riding a bike, users are actually allowed to ride a scooter on Fort Lauderdale sidewalks, so long as they audibly inform pedestrians while passing. However, people are visibly opting to ride the scooters on bumpy, cluttered sidewalks, when wide-open bike lanes are available.
Another major complaint among those posting on Nextdoor is that the scooters are sloppily placed on sidewalks once users complete their rides. "Since Thanksgiving, I must have seen probably three or four dozen of them all over the place," adds Ribner. "Someone's going to trip over one."
Bob Jackson, a 30-year resident of Rio Vista, voiced similar concerns on Nextdoor. He told New Times, "The
"None of it's policed," he adds. "I can't wait to see what it's like during spring break when everyone is drunk and these things are all over the place."
Another source of concern for residents is the lack of helmet use among riders. All three companies clearly recommend helmet use either via their respective apps and/or on the scooters themselves.
But Ribner suggests the companies should provide helmets for users to incentivize their use. "I mean, where do you get the helmet? It's not with the scooter... Right there, to me, that's a huge liability," she says. "It just seems a little bit crazy."
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While the companies do not provide helmets at the moment that a scooter is rented, Lime recently announced a “Respect the Ride” campaign in which it will distribute 250,000 free helmets to riders across the globe. Bird has hosted free helmet distribution events on Las Olas Boulevard and will also ship any active Bird rider a helmet for free, with the rider solely covering shipping.
Still, despite the companies’ local efforts and amid recent scooter-related fatalities in Washington, D.C., and Dallas, helmet usage is visibly little to none on the streets of Fort Lauderdale. Says Ribner, "I saw a young man today obviously going to work on one and he had his helmet on... but he's the only one I've seen."
The City of Fort Lauderdale did not immediately return multiple requests for comment from New Times.
But citizens such as Ribner say they have questions about the hundreds of scooters that have landed in their neighborhoods over the last month. "One of my concerns," she says, "I would feel terrible if I hit somebody, obviously, but then the other side of it is, suppose one of them drives into me. Who's going to cover the cost of my car? As a consumer, who's protecting me?"