The Journal Gazette
Thursday, July 22, 2021 1:00 am

Officials drop scooter ordinance plan

Council proposal failed; age limits biggest concern

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

Local residents who like getting around on motorized scooters won't face new restrictions on them anytime soon.

Officials don't plan to introduce another ordinance regulating motorized scooter use after ordinances failed to make it out of Fort Wayne City Council's regulation committee.

Nancy Townsend, director of Community Development, said Wednesday no “additional or modified” ordinances are being worked on by the department.

An ordinance introduced in April had rules against riders under the age of 18 riding rented Veo scooters, two people riding one scooter, and allowing pets on scooters. A second ordinance that was later introduced states people who violated the rules could be fined, starting at $50.

Only two City Council members – Geoff Paddock, D-5th, and Russ Jehl, R-2nd – voted in favor of the ordinances with the other seven members voting against them July 13.

Paul Spoelhof, the city's planning and policy director, and Officer Ben Messick of the Fort Wayne Police Department, fielded questions and opinions from council members about the proposed ordinances more than an hour. Messick said there's nothing he or any officer can do when they hear a complaint or observe someone riding a motorized scooter unsafely.

The rules essentially follow established guidelines for bicyclists when they are riding on sidewalks, Spoelhof said.

“We're not intending these for walking your pets or carrying pets. I've seen all kinds of things, or carrying children while you're riding,” he said. “There are appropriate ways to ride, and we are trying to put it in a set of rules here.”

“We want to hear the feedback,” Spoelhof said at the end of the hourlong discussion. “We are going to be responsive to that.”

One issue some council members had with the ordinance is the age limit, which is only in place for rented scooters since it is a Veo company policy.

Council President Paul Ensley said the age limit essentially creates two sets of rules – one for people renting scooters and one for scooter owners.

Even if underage riders are against Veo's rules, officers can't enforce it since it is not illegal without an approved ordinance.

Veo has 500 rentable scooters in Fort Wayne for a pilot program that ends at the end of the year.

All of the rules outside of the age limit, Spoelhof said, are the same for all scooter riders. Ensley also raised issue with some of the rules by saying he wouldn't think twice if he saw someone riding a scooter in his neighborhood with a dog or a cat on the scooter.

“I would just think it was a nice, wholesome, American thing to do,” he said.

Other council members agreed with Ensley that children approaching their teenage years should be able to ride the scooters, even if they are rented. Not all parents can afford a motorized scooter that costs about $300, Ensley said.

Councilwoman Michelle Chambers, D-at large, said early in the discussion that she would not be able to support an ordinance with an age limit.

“I think we are taking away another activity for young people to do with family or without family,” she said.

Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th, agreed with Chambers, saying the scooters aren't much of a family activity if children can't ride them alone or on one scooter with a parent.

The top concern shared by Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, is scooters being left in inappropriate places, such as in the right of way on sidewalks or on people's private property.

“It needs a little more tweaking,” Didier said.

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