SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — You may soon be able to “scoot” down to Falls Park.
Next week the Sioux Falls City Council will hear a second reading on a proposed ordinance to allow for motorized foot scooters in certain areas of Downtown Sioux Falls. You may have seen these scooters in cities like Minneapolis, Denver, Washington D.C., Phoenix and others. One Sioux Falls business owner had the idea to bring them to South Dakota after using them on a family vacation in Duluth, Minnesota.
“It was a great way for us to see more of Duluth than we would’ve any other way,” Troy Holt said. “It was a great way to see more of what Duluth had to offer than by just walking on foot.”
Holt, Chief Operating Officer with Five Star Call Centers, got in touch with Duluth-based Leaf Rides and discussed offering their scooters in Sioux Falls.
“They believe it’s a great market and a great opportunity,” said Holt, who spoke at this weeks’ city council meeting in support of a new ordinance.
Sioux Falls City Councilor Alex Jensen is one of the sponsors behind the ordinance change. He said these “green modes of transportation” are coming and city leaders can help play a role in the process to make it successful for the community.
“We don’t want these scooters littered through downtown,” Jensen said. “Some of those big operators in big cities will drop off 1,000 scooters. This is not that.”
Jensen said the scooters could “bridge” north and south downtown as well as east and west downtown. The proposed ordinance would allow city leaders to map certain areas the scooters would be allowed to operate as well as control and limit speeds for certain areas.
“Geofence technology is really one of the best things available to these e-scooters,” Jensen said. “There are some obvious spots you don’t want these.”
Jensen specifically said areas of Phillips Ave. between 8th St. and 12th St. would likely be walking with a scooter only. He noted other streets in downtown Sioux Falls could see a boost in foot traffic with scooter use on the sidewalks.
“These are all GPS enabled and they are managed by a SIM card,” said Holt, who compared the technology golf courses use with golf carts to slow and stop carts from driving on greens. “Pedestrians will have the right-of-way.”
There’ll also be designated parking zones for the scooters. If a scooter isn’t parked in a proper spot, Holt said someone with the business will be downtown to help move scooters to proper places.
“Our plan is to manage the sidewalks appropriately,” Holt said. “We plan to pick these up every night. I don’t want any concerns with bar crowd issues.”
Holt estimated the initial plan would start with twenty to thirty scooters. They’d be off the streets by 9 p.m. and morning demand would dictate when they’d be back available.
“The key we want to stress is the ability to manage them. Manage speeds, manage locations,” Holt said. “We’re excited to bring them to Sioux Falls.”
Scooter use on the street vs. sidewalk
One big sticking point with motorized foot scooters has been use on streets vs. sidewalks.
South Dakota state law states the scooters can’t go down the streets. Electric scooters are classified by South Dakota law as motor vehicles and that requires vehicles to meet safety equipment standards that scooters don’t have.
Jensen said he explored working with the legislature to make changes, but said from a regulation standpoint it was the wrong move.
These scooters are legally defined in the ordinance as “A wheeled conveyance, with handlebars, designed to be stood or sat upon by the operator, and powered by an electric motor that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion, and that has no more than two 12-inch or smaller diameter wheels and has a motor that is capable of a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour on a flat surface with not more than 1 percent grade in any direction when the motor is engaged.”
Helmet use would be encouraged
Helmet use with riding the scooters would be encouraged. At Tuesday’s city council meeting ideas of different stores downtown allowing free helmet rentals would be available.
The operating terms and conditions would support helmet safety. Both Holt and Jensen said they respect and understand all safety concerns but wanted to work to find proper solutions.
“We don’t want this to be a problem,” Jensen said. “If this becomes a problem, we’ll need to address that through regulation.”
Both stressed how scooters would enhance Sioux Falls for tourists and citizens alike.
Jensen used an example of someone parking near the Washington Pavilion and then taking a scooter down to the Levitt Shell and then on to Falls Park.
“Think of the connectivity you can provide,” Jensen said.
The second reading of the city ordinance will be held on Tuesday, June 8th.