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Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

Est. 2014

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Electric scooters could soon hit the streets of Rochester

Electric scooters could soon hit the streets of Rochester

If you have traveled around to larger cities, you probably have noticed the emergence of electric scooters on streets and pedestrian paths. In places like Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., they are now everywhere.

On Monday, the Rochester City Council will decide whether Rochester should add its name to the growing list of cities buzzing with them.

City administration is recommending that the council support a pilot program for Lime — one of the bigger players in the industry — to bring scooters into Rochester from August 1 through November 30.

During that time, the city plans to collect feedback to determine how well the program is going over. It will also work with Lime to gather data on where and when the scooters are being used. Following the test phase, the city will evaluate whether the scooters make long-term sense.

“Scooters, like walking or biking, will assist our community in reaching its sustainability goals while providing another affordable and equitable transportation option,” said Kevin Bright, who manages sustainability efforts for the city and Destination Medical Center. “The pilot will allow Rochester to consider the longer term implementation of such a solution and how it might complement other mobility options.”

Currently, city ordinance does not prevent transportation companies from coming into Rochester and renting out electric scooters. This initial program being proposed, however, would be exclusive to San Francisco-based Lime.

The company plans to start with 100 scooters city-wide. That number could eventually go up to 200. A city spokesperson said the city would be able to direct Lime to decrease the number of scooters at any time.

Over the past few years, scooters have increasingly become a routine part of urban life in cities across the country. They can be a convenient — and, frankly, fun — mode of transportation for pedestrians looking to get from Point A to Point B faster. They can also be a nuisance at times. Cities are now grappling with how to regulate where scooters should be permitted.

In Rochester, city officials say electric scooters should be treated like bicycles. That means they must travel in a bike lane or traffic lane, and are not allowed to be operated on sidewalks. 

The spokesperson said the pilot program would come at no cost to the city.

The scooters typically charge $1 to start, then go up 30 cents or so every minute thereafter. They are checked out using a smartphone.

Sean Baker is a Rochester journalist and the founder of Med City Beat.

Cover photo courtesy Michael Coghlan on Flickr

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