New Scottsdale ride-share regulations go into effect Dec. 13

Ride-share scooters and bicycles will be subject to new city guidelines on Dec. 13. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Scottsdale City Council has passed an ordinance to address rules and regulations of independently operated bicycles, scooters and skateboards.

The widely-popular, bike-share business that’s descended upon Scottsdale has been met with love and hatred since first coming to market in November 2017. Additionally, dockless, stand-up scooters moved in last spring.

The bike and scooter options are said to provide quick and easy modes of transportation for residents and visitors by downloading an app on a mobile device providing locations for bikes and scooters.

Through the app, users can pay for their rides generally by the amount of time it’s in use.

In recent months, city officials have been working on an answer to address the multitude of bicycles appearing all over the city — in ditches, on sidewalks, and blocking access for pedestrians and motorists. The ordinance outlines where, and more specifically where not to, park the bikes and scooters and rules for operation.

On Nov. 13, the Scottsdale City Council voted 6-1 to approve the ordinance. City Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield was the dissenting vote.

Assistant City Manager Brent Stockwell presented the ordinance to the City Council, which had been recommended for City Council approval by the transportation commission.

Scottsdale’s tourism season, which brings in millions of visitors annually, makes the city a particularly attractive location for the bike-sharing companies that rent bikes on a very short-term basis for a fee.

City officials say the bike-share differs from traditional bike rental because trips are intended to be short, often less than 30 minutes.

Bicycles are parked in a variety of places in Scottsdale (file photo)

While bike-share business has traditionally been offered through dock-based programs, the companies, which have located in Scottsdale, do not require municipal funding and do not require their customers to use a docking system, or designated parking areas.

According to a city staff report, from November through April of last year, the two companies operating in Scottsdale reported ridership in the city rated in the top five in North America.

Mr. Stockwell says problems with the bike-share operations included blocking sidewalks, but now the ordinance will require the owner to keep devices properly parked. Also, new city rules require an improperly parked device to be picked up within two hours of notification.
Respecting private property is also outlined in the ordinance.

The City Council members mostly asked clarifying questions of the ordinance, such as what happens if someone isn’t following the rules outlined in the ordinance; but Ms. Littlefield took several minutes to outline her reasons for not supporting the ordinance.

“I’m not quite as enamored with this ordinance as other people seem to me,” Ms. Littlefield said.

“I have a real concern with downtown for this. If this area for downtown becomes too hazardous for people to try and use sidewalks and roadways, and they decide to stay away, there’s a limit to how much interference people will take or endure.”

Ms. Littlefield says that compared to other cities like Tempe or Phoenix, Scottsdale’s regulations are lax.

“This ordinance will cause Scottsdale to look like a very cheap and easy target for businesses to set up shop in,” she said, before outlining numerous questions.

(Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“I believe this ordinance is inadequate and does not protect our downtown area, our citizens or our city from harm. I also get the strong impression that we are soft pedaling the very real concerns folks have with these bikes. I cannot support this ordinance as it stands — and I’m sorry I can’t.”

Ms. Littlefield says she’d like to see an amended ordinance come back to City Council that requires docking stations for the vehicles.

Mayor Jim Lane, however, says the bike-share programs in Tempe and Phoenix are quite different than what’s set up in Scottsdale.

“One of the things we’ve tried to effect here is to not take liability for this operation at all — Phoenix and Tempe both bought their systems at the cost of a few million dollars in each case, and they also assumed the operation of it, and thus the full liability for it,” he said.

“The effort here is to leave the liability with the operating company, not with the taxpayers here in Scottsdale. So, it’s a matter of a bit of balance, I suppose, as to whether we can enforce what we see to be important elements of convenience for the public here. And, frankly the look and feel of our downtown, and safety as well. At the same time, allow what is seen by many to be an amenity that they enjoy, without assuming liability for it.”

Mr. Stockwell said that if passed, the city would be in communication with the bike and scooter companies to ensure they are informing their riders about what’s expected.

Allowable parking includes in bike racks or “designated parking areas or anywhere else they’re not prohibited,” Mr. Stockwell says.

Mr. Lane says it seems to become complicated as to where vehicles can park, when there’s a long list of places not to park.

“I would sort of understand that could create some difficulty in a casual renter of such a ride being able to digest all of the exceptions to it,” Mr. Lane said.

The ordinance changes to be aware of include:

  • Don’t park more than five bikes from the same owner within 200 feet of each other;
  • Don’t park where prohibited by signs or where the curb is painted red;
  • Don’t park within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or 20 feet of a fire station entrance;
  • Don’t park in the same public location for longer than 72 hours;
  • Don’t park within transit stops, unless at designated areas;
  • Don’t park within a landscaped area, median, bicycle lane, crosswalk, intersection or turn lane;
  • Don’t park on a public sidewalk, path or trail or within a handicapped parking stall;
  • Don’t park in front of or within a driveway or alley entrance;
  • Don’t park bikes on private property without permission of the owner of that property;
  • Park bikes within bike racks or designated zones.

Mr. Stockwell says the city will be very specific about areas that are allowable for parking.

For Councilman Guy Phillips, the ride-share isn’t his favorite ordinance but he can come to terms with it, he says.

“I’m not enamored with this either, but I am amicable about it,” Mr. Phillips said. “I’m an old guy, I’m not planning on jumping on a bike or scooter downtown, but I know a lot of people do, and I know it’s very popular. I think staff has gone to a lot of trouble to come up with an ordinance that’s good for everybody.”

Mr. Phillips proposed having city staff return to the council after tourism season to review how the ordinance worked out.

“If it works, great. If it doesn’t, we can tweak the parts that don’t work. If it’s terrible, we’ll never do it again,” he said. “But let’s go through this ordinance and see. It’s better than last season when we didn’t have anything.”

The ordinance goes into effect Thursday, Dec. 13.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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