E-scooters return to St. Louis’ Downtown, Downtown West neighborhoods

Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 7:23 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - Nearly 10 months since being banned in the Downtown and Downtown West area of St. Louis, electric scooters are making a comeback.

“With any new technology comes growing pains, and St. Louis was a pretty early adopter of micro mobility devices,” said Jacque Knight, chair of the Micro Mobility Subcommittee through the city’s Community Mobility Committee. “When the scooters were put on pause last year, it was really a chance for the city to take a step back and understand how the companies have changed and how we as a city need to be responding to those changes to better manage the program.”

On Friday, Bird Inc. deployed 50 scooters in the Downtown and Downtown West area, a “soft relaunch” of their program with new changes under the city’s new permit rules for e-scooters adopted this year.

“What we’re trying to accomplish in St. Louis is just to get that bad behavior off the platform,” said Adam Davis, Bird’s senior manager of government partnerships. “Speeds have been reduced, the [number] of scooters that are allowed in the Downtown has been reduced, all in an effort to just make a program that keeps the city moving without it being a nuisance that some may have seen it before.”

Nuisance concerns among Downtown stakeholders were raised last year amid large gatherings of teens in the area and the use of scooters at late hours of the night linked to violence and disturbances. This fueled the city’s decision to ban their use in June 2022.

“I don’t like them, and I feel like the police have too much going on to worry about people on scooters,” said Colleen Higham, a Downtown resident.

The response to scooters being reinstated this weekend remains mixed, even among family members.

“I kind of like them, although I agree they can be a nuisance,” said James Higham. “I think maybe they need to be tamped down a little bit.”

Davis says under the new permit rules, riders must be 18 and older to use the program, which is verified on the Bird app when riders submit their ID.

For now, no one can rent a scooter between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

“The riders do want to be able to ride outside of those hours, and hopefully we can work with the city at some point to scale it back,” said Davis.

For those visiting St. Louis, the return of scooters is a welcomed source of mobility.

“We’ve used them on vacation trips before,” said Kirsten Warner, who was visiting from New York this weekend. “It feels like a nice way to get around, because we always fly in places.”

Riders cannot book multiple scooters at a time, and speeds on the device have been reduced from 15 to 12 mph. In some areas they can only go up to 10 mph.

“I think anytime you can provide people with multiple choices as to how they travel around the city, it’s a great thing,” said Knight.

As much as there is optimism among some Downtown residents that these new changes will keep the city safe, others remain cautious.

“I guess we’ll have to see, I mean, like I said, I’m for it,” said James Higham. “We’ll have to see. I hope [people] respect the fact that they’re being given back.”

Davis says they plan to have weekly meetings with the mayor’s office, city staff, the streets department and public safety leaders as the program rolls out.

“Just to have feedback in real time so that we can make changes in real time,” said Davis.

As for scooters that continued to operate in other neighborhoods during their ban in the Downtown and Downtown West limits, the number of scooters allowed in neighborhoods has also been capped. There is a maximum of 100 bikes and scooters per operator allowed in any of the city’s neighborhoods, and no more than 200 being used simultaneously. For Downtown and Downtown West, the max is 150 bikes per operator, and no more than 300 bikes can be used simultaneously.

A spokesperson for Lime scooters tells News 4 the company is looking at relaunching its e-scooters Downtown early next week. Both operators plan to continue engagement with the Downtown region and stakeholders as the rollout continues and in the future.