St. Augustine Beach Works On Refining Potential Ordinance For E-Scooters

Oct 8, 2019

St. Augustine Beach residents will have to wait a while longer to find out how the e-scooter trend might play out in their St. Johns County community.

Monday night the St. Augustine Beach City Commission heard again from two vendors that want to operate electric scooter businesses in the beachfront community.

A variety of concerns were raised during the meeting, including whether the e-scooters should be corralled at specific locations when returned by riders or allowed to be left on sidewalks and other more random locations.

The city has been working on a draft ordinance for the battery-powered scooters which - if adopted - will address things like limiting the speeds of the small two-wheeled vehicles.

Two vendors, Frog Scooter Company of St. Augustine and eWhipz, which is an LLC out of Elkton, have approached St. Augustine Beach about starting e-scooter operations. Elkton representative Mike Waudron told the commission he would be an independent operator of Bird, which is one of the biggest U.S. players in the e-Scooter industry.

At the previous September commission meeting, City Attorney Jim Wilson suggested the following guidelines:

  • An non-exclusive franchise agreement.
  • Payment of a franchise fee.
  • Required insurance.
  • Limiting the speed to 15 mph or lower on all devices.
  • Devices could not be left unattended in city rights-of-way, sidewalks, or city parking lots unless they are put in a docking or bicycle stand.
  • Not have docking stations on city properties.
  • Potentially limiting the number of scooters per franchise holder for safety reasons. Wilson explained that the e-scooters could be a nuisance on the streets and sidewalks if left unattended.

GPS-enabled e-scooters would allow vendors to retrieve scooters left at random locations if the docking staions idea isn't adopted.  Implementing a pilot program was also discussed as a possible way to move forward.

Potential franchise fees were also discussed although no final decisions were made Monday night.

“I think that the message that's loud and clear from both vendors that are working with us [as well as] from the chief, from the city manager, and all the commissioners, is taking it slow - making sure we put safety first,” said Mayor Undine George in deciding to give the discussion more time and directing the city attorney to continue work on a draft ordinance.

Cities across the country and in Florida have been dealing with the boom in e-scooters.

Safety concerns about the relatively new form of transportation are also on the rise as people start showing up in emergency rooms with injuries.

"We've seen things from broken bones to punctured lungs to shattered pelvis," Catherine Juillard, a trauma surgeon at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco told NPR last year.

Earlier this year Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed off on granting e-scooter riders the same rights as bicyclists.

Tampa’s City Council implemented an e-scooter pilot program on Memorial Day weekend and Tallahassee has launched an e-scooter pilot project.

The electric scooters have been rolling out by the thousands across the U.S.  In most cases people download an app and enter a credit card number. The apps show where the scooters are located, which are then unlocked, activated and ready to ride.

St. Augustine Beach’s next City Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 4 at 6:00 p.m.

Editor's Note: ​ An earlier audio report in this story contained a reference to St. Augustine Beach Mayor Undine George that misidentified her title. She is the mayor of St. Augustine Beach, not St. Augustine. The audio report has been updated to reflect the correction.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Photo used under Creative Commons license.