By Shereen Siewert | Wausau Pilot & Review
The Wausau City Council will review an ordinance creating a new chapter in the city code regarding electric scooters.
In December, the Public Health and Safety Committee discussed the matter after an approach from a company interested in renting scooters in the downtown area or on the riverfront.
E-scooters have become a transportation alternative for municipalities nationwide, in cities including Portland, Spokane, Tacoma and other cities along the West Coast. Commuters rent them using app-based technology, then typically leave them on the sidewalk for the next renter.
Residents of major cities have embraced e-scooters for their benefits, providing quick trips to the nearest bus stop or the grocery store. Whether those benefits are applicable to a smaller city like Wausau is anyone’s guess.
Advocates say scooters theoretically reduce emissions and traffic issues, but the list of drawbacks is lengthy. In Portland, for example, the scooters became such a nuisance that more than 50 of the devices were pulled from the Willamette River last summer. Municipalities also report frequent complaints about riders interfering with pedestrians or about scooters being left in inconvenient places. Some college campuses are banning electric scooters amid concerns about the dangers they pose to pedestrians and riders.
The proposed rules, reviewed Monday by the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, lays out specific rules for the operation of electric scooters and prohibits operation on public sidewalks and City-owned parking ramps, except in certain designated areas such as the Bridge Street bridge, the Thomas Street bridge, and the Scott Street and W. Washington bridge. Electric scooters are also permitted on certain sections of Grand Avenue and Forest Street, under the proposed ordinance.
When riding on a roadway, electric scooter operators would be required to ride “as near as possible to within five feet of the right curb or edge of the roadway, except when passing another vehicle or making a left-hand turn.”
Group riders would be required to ride in single file except on residential streets that are not divided by marked lines.
The rules say electric scooter operators are also prohibited from impeding the normal movement of motor vehicle traffic.
The ordinance also prohibits electric scooter operators from “clinging to or attaching themselves or an electric scooter to any moving vehicle, participating in any race, speed, or endurance contest with any other moving vehicle on a City roadway, performing any trick riding on any highway, bicycle way, or sidewalk, operating with no hands on the handlebars or otherwise practicing any fancy or acrobatic riding or stunts while operating such electric scooter, and operating an electric scooter at a speed greater than the posted speed limit.”
In other words, no “funny stuff.”
The ordinance also gives right-of-way to electric scooter operators in the same manner as for bicyclists and pedestrians and requires them to yield the right-of-way to motor vehicles when entering a public roadway.
Motorcycles, electric bicycles and mopeds are not included in the ordinance.
The ordinance was previously approved by the city’s Public Health and Safety committee, which passed the language unanimously.