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Your Scooter Tutor

Electric scooters can be annoying, but we need to learn the rules before flipping them "the bird."

(Photo Credit: WISH TV)

It's been a month since the electric scooter has returned to Indianapolis, and I've already had several near misses between crappy little car and electric scooter riders. It's more than time to hash out the rules of this invasive species of travel. Here's what I've experienced so far:

  • Shortly after the scooters hit the streets again, a group of twenty-somethings were riding in the opposite direction of Illinois St - on the sidewalk - and almost became a permanent part of my hood. Like everyday when traffic reporting wraps up at 7pm, I was just easing out of the parking garage, a habit formed by the massive amount of foot traffic on this busy section of Mile Square.
  • There was the sleepy Monday morning when I almost cleaned up a rider who hot-shotted across the intersection on a green light, and going from sidewalk to sidewalk. 
  • I'm humbly driving in the right lane, and the scooter riders either pass a half dozen cars at the light or weave in and out of traffic. It seemed wreckless, considering a scooter rider is toast if the device collides with a car, even at the slowest of speeds.

And then there’s the curious case of scooters being used for unintended means, like getaway vehicles:

Or non-functional flotation devices:

Unauthorized additions to the Monument Circle fountains:

And no joking aside, the injuries:

And another injury involving a rider not wearing a helmet (warning, rough pic).


Honestly, the people I chat with have encountered an electric scooter rider that wasn't playing by the rules on at least one occasion. Was the rider ignorant or insolent - who knows? But it causes a problem for safe driving folk like you and I, drivers that are fully aware of the damage done if we broadside or rear end a motorized scooter. They have ZERO defense against such a strike.

BUT, before we rally at the Circle and spend an afternoon scooping up electric scooters and throwing them in the White River, let’s take the path of civility and learn the rules ourselves, in hopefully lending a hand on education and enforcement.

Indianapolis Metro Police Department (IMPD) has made great strides in educating all citizens on how car drivers, elecric scooter riders, and bikes can assimilate and function on our city streets. IMPD Sergeant Jim Gillespie was kind enough to chat me up on all things scooters - from riding to parking - to clear the road of any misconceptions on where to ride and how to park. With that...

I WANT TO RIDE LEGALLY, BUT HOW DO I RIDE LEGALLY?

It’s pretty simple. Motorized scooters are like bikes - riders must follow the same rules and regulations as cars and trucks. Use a bike lane or even the roadway - make sure you stay to the right side of the road and DON’T weave in and out of traffic - but unlike bikes, you CANNOT ride on trails or greenways like the Cultural Trail, Canal Walk, or Monon Trail.

Also, you have to be mindful of traffic on your rear, says Gillespie:

You have to be (aware) of the actual traffic that’s behind you and allow vehicles to pass. Same situation with the bicycles and the mopeds that are out there. They have to stick to the right hand side and allow traffic to pass them.

In other words, riders have to let the vehicles behind them pass. You’re riding in the road, great, but it doesn’t excuse clogging up traffic.

Tell that to this guy:

Well then.

Finally, staying off of sidewalks means stay away from parking garage entryways. Did you see the video above? Pretty scary stuff. Again:

Alright, let’s recap:

YES to riding on the street and bike lanes, just stay to the right.

NO riding on sidewalks.

NO riding on the Cultural Trail, Canal Walk, or Monon Trail.

YES to letting traffic behind you pass.

NO parking inside Circle Centre Mall.

NO throwing an electric scooter in the canal.

I DON’T WANT TO WEAR A HELMET

And legally you don’t have to (!!). Wearing a helmet is strongly recommended, but not required by law. But really, can you imagine getting rear ended on a motorized scooter or getting tagged by a car? You better learn to fly.

Even at the slowest of speeds, a collision will cause an injury, and possibly to your head if you aren't wearing a helmet. Then again, if you’re riding an electric scooter without a helmet, you might already have a head injury, probably to your brain.


HOW DO I PARK THESE THINGS?

Easy! Just abide by the four feet clearance rule! Park the scooter on the sidewalk and leave four feet of room. That allows our nice wheelchair bound residents plenty of room to scoot down the sidewalk. According to Gillespie, most city sidewalks are six feet wide or bigger, so this shouldn’t be too hard:

You can also park the scooter in a grassy area that's not landscaped.

This doesn’t include your neighbors' lawn. They won’t appreciate that.

Also, park the scooter upright. If you just throw it down in the middle of the sidewalk, like you did with your bike on mom’s driveway, it’ll easily violate the four feet clearance rule. 

Finally, there's no clear cut definition on leaning the scooter against the building, but let's just say you won't get docked for doing it. At least it's upright! 


THEY'RE NOT ENFORCING THE RULES, I DO WHAT I WANT

Ummmm, actually, they are enforcing the rules. Police have started to crackdown on riding and parking violators, and they have the ticket books to prove it.

Fine? Twenty dollars. Don't want to pay it? It doubles after 28 days.

Still, we're making headway. Sergeant Gillespie says education and enforcement is making a difference:

I’ll tell you myself, when they first came back I was seeing them all over the place – on the sidewalks especially, heavy on the cultural trail -  as we get more messaging out, I actually see more people riding in the street.

My take? Scooter parking has improved dramatically since they first returned to the streets, but I'm seeing too many riders going against traffic and riding on the Cultural Trail. Then again, baby steps.


In summation, I'm still not comfortable with electric scooters on our roadways. My blood pressure skyrockets when driving anywhere near an electric scooter that's on the move, mainly because of the unpredictability of the operator. However, given the licensing fees the city recently stamped on Bird and Lime - the two operating companies of the scooters - I absolutely believe they're here to stay for the immediate future. 

So let's just be cool, and do all that we can to not hurt somebody or get ourselves hurt. Frustration? Sure, at times, but that's nothing compared to the lifetime guilt if we permanently injure or kill somebody. 

I love ending my blogs on a high note.

Be safe out there.

-Bair


Matt Bair is the new voice of Indianapolis traffic, and can be followed on Twitter @WIBCTraffic..Tips? Call direct at (317) 684-8134 or the 93 WIBC Newsroom at (317) 637-6397.

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