Bloomington city council finally enacts scooter laws (Roll Call Votes: July 31, 2019)

Nearly four months after a package of laws regulating e-scooters first appeared on the Bloomington city council’s agenda, the legislation was approved on a 7–1 vote Wednesday night.

Cropped Scooter decoration IMG_0103
Scooters parked in downtown Bloomington a block off the courthouse square the morning of Aug. 1, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

In broad strokes the package of laws includes: licensing of companies by the city’s board of public works; caps on numbers associated with licenses; regulations for the way all scooter pilots—shared use or not—operate their scooters (e.g., yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians); regulations on the locations and manner of scooter parking (e.g., only if in upright position); safety features of scooters (e.g., configured so scooters cannot exceed 15 mph); data sharing; required public outreach; and affordability and accessibility.

Approved on Wednesday were some new wrinkles: a reversal of the council’s previous amendment to prohibit scooter parking on all sidewalks; and permission for scooter pilots to park scooters in the space between sidewalks and streets, subject to certain conditions. 

In snippet form, amendments approved Wednesday were:

  • elimination of parking rules that are specific to dismount zones;
  • direction to the city’s parking commission and bicycle and pedestrian safety committee to study the question of converting on-street car parking spaces to scooter corrals;
  • allowing scooter parking on the verge between a sidewalk and the street if the scooter is leaned against a parking or traffic sign post and is not on top of ornamental plantings;
  • a requirement that scooter pilots dismount when passing a pedestrian on a sidewalk;
  • explicit mention of the American with Disabilities Act as a piece of federal legislation with which scooter operation has to comply;
  • reversal of the previous amendment that prohibited scooter parking on all sidewalks
  • change of the effective date to Sept. 1

Councilmember Allison Chopra cast the sole dissenting vote. The council’s president, Dave Rollo, was absent.

Chopra’s dissent was consistent across all the votes taken Wednesday on the scooter legislation—on the final package as well as amendments considered Wednesday.

Prompting Chopra’s dissent was the council’s reversal of its position on the use of sidewalks for parking. On May 1, the council voted 8–0, with councilmember Jim Sims abstaining, to add a prohibition against scooter parking on all sidewalks. The council did not vote that night on the legislation as amended.  The scooter companies, Bird and Lime, said they would cease operation in Bloomington if the sidewalk prohibition were a part of the final legislation.

At Wednesday’s meeting Chopra said she did not think the council should reverse the decision it had already made, to prevent sidewalks from being obstructed for those who need them to get around.

Sims responded to Chopra by saying he did not think the council was kowtowing to scooter companies—he did not care if they stopped doing business in Bloomington. Other companies were starting up that would be willing to comply with the city’s laws, he said.

Chopra delivered sharp words about the lengthy deliberations, saying she was embarrassed  that the council could not complete its business in less that four hours.

It was councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith who put together several of the amendments presented Wednesday, after working through early July during the council’s hiatus with members of the disability community.

Some exchanges between Chopra and Piedmont-Smith were pointed.

Piedmont-Smith also expressed some frustration at the administration for the introduction that same day of some amendments to the legislation that the administration itself had drafted. She had agreed to sponsor the administration’s proposed amendments, but wound up abstaining from the vote on them. City attorney Mike Roucker said that the administration’s request to change its own proposed rules for parking in dismount zones was prompted by the council’s previous decision to expand the dismount zones to cover 42 city blocks.

Here’s an overview of all the roll-call votes taken by Bloomington’s city council on July 31, 2019. Green shading of a motion indicates that it passed.

Motion Sturbaum Granger Chopra Rollo Piedmont-Smith Volan Ruff Sandberg Sims
Scooter: Suspend Rules to Reconsider Am 7a no sidewalk parking yes yes no absent yes yes yes yes yes
Scooter: Am 15a allow sidewalk parking with many restrictions yes yes no absent yes yes yes yes yes
Scooter: Am to Am 19 strike item removing  parking rules in dismount zones
yes no no absent pass no yes no pass
Scooter: Am 19 remove dismount-zone parking rules; commission study
yes yes no absent pass yes no yes yes
Scooter: Am 13a dismount when passing ped on sidewalk; disabled ped trail
yes yes no absent yes yes yes yes yes
 Scooter: Am 16 add explicit mention of ADA as a federal law yes yes no absent yes yes yes yes yes
 Scooter: Am 18a allow parking, leaned against traffic/parking sign in verge pass yes no absent yes yes yes yes yes
 Scooter: Am 7a (reconsidered) no sidewalk parking no no yes absent no no no no no
Scooter: Am 17 changes effective date of ordinance to Sept. 1, 2019 yes yes no absent yes yes yes yes yes
Scooter legislation as amended on July 31, May 1 and April 17 yes yes no absent yes yes yes yes yes
North Walnut PUD (Motel 6 site): refer to land use committee yes yes absent absent yes yes yes yes yes