The gist: State law now makes electric scooters from companies like Bird legal in Louisiana, clearing up a limbo that paused their use in Lafayette. But the City-Parish Council voted Tuesday night to keep the scooters off Lafayette’s streets until new local rules and regulations are approved.
Get caught up, quickly: Last fall, Lafayette was invaded by electric scooters, first from Bird then by competitor Lime. Between the two companies, more than 100 scooters appeared throughout the city and in greater density around Downtown and UL’s campus. Almost as quickly as they appeared, LCG yanked them from the streets in compliance with state law, saying it would wait until new legislation was passed to reintroduce them.
Now those scooters are legal in Louisiana. Senate Bill 91 passed unanimously and was signed into law June 11 by Gov. John Bel Edwards. Now, the scooters are allowed anywhere — on sidewalks, bicycle paths and highways — unless a parish or municipal governing authority decides to limit or prohibit them in any area under their jurisdiction.
But Mayor-President Joel Robideaux doesn’t want a return to last fall’s free-for-all. That’s why he proposed a temporary moratorium on their return. “The scooters really caught us off guard last year,” says LCG Communications Director Cydra Wingerter. “So we want to pause and have a process established on our end where we work with the council and the police department to make sure that it’s as safe as can be and implemented in a manner that we can control better than last time.”
Now it’s time to negotiate. A key step is negotiating with Bird and Lime on what regulations are tenable for the scooter providers. Regulations could include speed limits, restrictions on the number of scooters any one particular vendor can drop off, permitting, safety rules, revenue sharing, and other components, according to Wingerter.
If the negotiations fail, then the scooters will stay illegal in Lafayette. “The goal is not at this moment to prohibit scooters long term,” says Wingerter, adding that Robideaux also won’t allow the scooters to return unless he feels there are rules of the road established that protect our community.
Robideaux estimates it’ll take two more months to finish the rules and regulations. At Tuesday’s council meeting, he said City-Parish Attorney Paul Escott has 85% of an initial draft complete. But Wingerter says it’s tough to estimate how long it will take before a plan is finalized.
What to watch for: Whatever rules and regulations Robideaux’s administration settles on will have to win the approval of both the council and the scooter companies for the scooters to return. But if this process isn’t settled by year’s end, next year it may have to start all over again since we’ll have a new mayor-president and, presumably, a new city council and new parish council.