Shared electric scooters that are parked so they block ADA ramps and sidewalks in Bloomington will soon be systematically documented and moved out of the way by two temporary workers.
In action taken on Tuesday, the city’s three-member board of public works approved a contract with Express Employment Services that is supposed to pay two workers $15.75 an hour for around 25 hours a week. The total cost of the city’s payments to Express can’t be more than $15,500.
The parking services division, within the department of public works, will administer the pilot program, which is supposed to be evaluated at the end of the year.
A temp agency is being used just to get the new workers on the job as quickly as possible, with an eye towards bringing the same people on board as temporary city employees soon after that.
The jobs are posted on the city’s own job board.
The program to document blockage of ADA ramp and sidewalk access, and move the scooters out of the path is being launched more than three years after the city council enacted its scooter ordinance.
Bloomington’s local law allows shared use electric scooter companies to use the public right-of-way for their operations, in exchange for a licensing fee of $10,000 a year, and a payment to the city of 15 cents per ride.
Currently licensed to do business in Bloomington are Bird, Lime, and VeoRide.
As described by Bloomington director of economic and sustainable development Alex Crowley during departmental budget presentations at the end of August, the new workers won’t be writing parking tickets.
But they apparently could eventually be tapped for that task. The city’s own job description reads, “When required, prepares and issues citations (according to Title 15 in city code) on handheld unit which records this information in our citation management software system.”
It’s not 100-percent clear if the city has the legal ability to issue parking citations for scooter parking violations. In the more than three years since the council enacted the ordinance no citations have been issued.
That’s after city attorney Mike Rouker told the council at its July 31, 2019 meeting when it passed the scooter law, “So just to be clear, at the same time, that Bird or Lime or another scooter company may be taking those additional steps against their own users, the city, if this is an issue, will be fining them every single time we see a parking issue.”
About Rouker’s statement Bloomington’s director of communications Andrew Krebbs wrote in response to a B Square inquiry: “Mike’s statement suggests that this is at the discretion of the City, which it is and remains, and we retain that discretion. We are keeping that option on the table and may pursue it.”
At Tuesday’s board of public works meeting, during public commentary time Bloomington resident Greg Alexander described the city attorney’s statement like this: “[Rouker] didn’t say it was something that was being considered—he guaranteed that it would happen.”
Alexander continued, “The council was very, very reluctant to approve the scooter ordinance. … [Rouker] guaranteed it would happen and that guarantee is what pushed it over the line.” Alexander added: “That’s why we have the scooter ordinance, because we were promised that there would be parking enforcement.”
Alexander concluded, “These new workers should be assessing fines, they shouldn’t just be reporting or whatever. Or Mike Rouker misled the council.”
The B Square filed uReports last year with photographs of scooter parking violations that included timestamps and location coordinates in the metadata of the image files. The city staff to whom the reports were assigned analyzed them like this:
“I talked to parking enforcement, as there is no VIN or license plate so they cannot issue a citation in the traditional manner. If they see them, they will move them out of the way so the sidewalks are navigable. However, records are kept and issued to Legal who can in turn issue fines to the company who owns the scooters. I am forwarding the complaint and picture to legal for this reason. Thank you.
The use of part-timers to monitor scooter parking violations and move them so they don’t block accessibility is one of the approaches the city is now taking to address frequent complaints about scooters parked so that they block access.
Another approach will be to supply the geographic information to scooter companies that they can use to establish geofenced parking corrals. A corral is an area where a scooter has to be parked in order for a rider to stop accruing charges to their account.
Not getting much as much attention in city conversations about scooters have been requirements in Bloomington’s law related to safety.
While riding on sidewalks is not generally prohibited, riding on sidewalks is not allowed in designated dismount zones, which include portions of the downtown. People under 18 years old are not allowed to rent scooters. And riding double is prohibited. All those behaviors are readily observable on any weekend in downtown Bloomington.
In 2020, the city purchased 100 30-inch diameter round “Dismount Zone” decals for $4,500 and affixed them to sidewalks to alert scooter riders to the prohibition against riding scooters on sidewalks in the area. But those decals have mostly peeled off.
Details are scant surrounding the mid-August death of an Indiana University student who was involved in what an Indiana University police department report described as a “scooter crash.” The IUPD report says the rider suffered “an apparent head injury as a result of the scooter crash.”
The incident took place a little after 2 a.m., according to the report. The report puts the victim on a sidewalk on the north side of 10th Street just west of Eagleson Avenue. The report does not mention another vehicle.
The IUPD report lists as a crime associated with the incident “illegal consumption/possession of alcohol by minor.”
Also responding to the scene that morning was Bloomington’s fire department (BFD). The BFD incident report describes the victim as someone who “fell off a scooter.” The BFD report describes the patient as “combative.” According to the BFD report, fire personnel aided with the restraint of the patient in the ambulance on the way to IU Health hospital.
The patient was eventually transported to an Indianapolis hospital, where he died.
The Marion County coroner’s office has not yet produced its basic report in response to a records request from The B Square. The city of Bloomington has not yet produced audio recordings of 911 calls in response to a records request from The B Square.