Scooter safety gets closer look as city plans to approve proposals

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The talk of electric scooters coming to the streets of Wichita is drawing some mixed reviews hours ahead of a vote by the City Council.

“I think the attraction is just bringing something else to our city,” Amber Vaughn said.

But the opinions aren’t all positive, especially from one person who comes from a city where they’re already in use.

“As you’re walking as a pedestrian, you’re battling bikes on the sidewalks, scooters on the sidewalks,” said Tracy Herrera. “When they’re finished with them, people lay them over.”

The City Council will finalize contracts at Tuesday morning’s meeting. After that, the scooters could be available for use within days. The first year is considered a ‘pilot’ year, where city workers will monitor how the scooters are being used and if tweaks to the system will be necessary.

But as local leaders prepare for scooters, other cities are looking to remove them.

“The way it’s operating in Nashville right now, we just have too much risk associated with it,” said Mayor David Briley of Nashville. He’s been pushing city council there to ban the devices after a fatal crash and surging injuries due to accidents with the device.

Nationwide, the Associated Press reports that at least eleven people have died in the last 18 months due to scooter crashes. The report also tallied 1,500 injuries from scooter-related accidents.

Industry experts say many times the problems begin when companies don’t provide proper safety checks.

“They aren’t the result of scooters themselves,” said Tim Ericson, co-founder and Chief Business Officer of Zagster, one of two companies that have applied for permits to be used in the City of Wichita. “They’re the result of how the scooter companies implement these programs.

If his company’s application is approved, Ericson said his company would hire local employees to monitor the use of the scooters and inspect that the devices are functioning safely and properly. Plans posted in the other company, VeoRide, stipulated safety checks as well.

“We’re hiring 20 to 30 people in Wichita, in part time and full time roles to ensure that the scooters are where they need to be and that we can respond quickly when there’s issues,” Ericson said.

Both companies said the rate to start a ride would be $1, and users would pay 15 cents per minute. The company itself would pay a $500 fee every year, and 15 cents for each ride that is rented.

The contracts for the two companies will likely be passed Tuesday morning.

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