SMYRNA — After a nearly one-month delay, Smyrna City Council members could vote Monday to become the second Cobb city to ban shareable, dockless electric scooters from its sidewalks and public areas.
The ban would apply to rentable electric scooters and bicycles, which are rented through a smartphone app. Originally scheduled for a vote at the council’s May 20 meeting, the ban was tabled last month by Mayor Max Bacon, who cited the receipt of “additional information” on the issue. All seven council members favored the delay.
Bacon told council members Thursday that while he would prefer a ban on scooters, he recently saw them in action and could be supportive of allowing them in the city with caveats.
“I just got back from Denver,” Bacon said, referring to the American Water Works Association Conference in Denver which he attended as part of the Cobb Marietta Water Authority. “It works extremely well in (Denver’s) downtown area, but they have 12- to 16-foot-wide sidewalks. (I) talked to several people, and they said one day, ‘The scooters just showed up in the downtown,’ and they sort of backed their way into it.”
Denver’s regulations on scooters, Bacon added, do not prohibit such vehicles but do reduce their presence.
A common criticism of the companies’ business models is that they result in scooters littering public sidewalks.
“What their requirements are in Denver, every night these companies have to come in and take everything off the street. It doesn’t prohibit it, but those suckers can fly,” Bacon said, noting some scooters’ top speeds of 25 mph. “They’re dangerous.”
As for whether Smyrna should allow them, Bacon cited the Marietta City Council’s vote to ban the scooters, but said he could get behind a limited allowance of the scooters’ operation in the city.
“I’ve got major issues about having those scooters in this downtown area,” he said. “If we want to allow them, one way or another … I’m comfortable with if we do an ordinance that would allow them to be on the sidewalks, Concord (Road), Atlanta (Road), South Cobb (Drive),” Bacon said, “but I’m not in any way, shape or form for subsidizing anything that would allow them to be there.”
While city staff at Thursday’s meeting recommended tabling a vote on the ban until July, citing the need to study more cities’ ordinances, council members agreed in principle that they wanted to keep the vote on the agenda for their 7 p.m. meeting Monday, with Councilman Charles Welch concerned that a company could “drop 50 of these” scooters into the city amid any delay on a decision.
Councilman Derek Norton, who is bringing forward the measure, said residents he has spoken to largely support a decision in favor of the ban.
“I’ve had three meetings since this first came up — two neighborhood meetings and a town hall — I asked the question and 95%of people don’t want them. They want us to ban them. I didn’t have anybody who wanted them in the downtown,” Norton said. “The few that wanted them said they wanted to use them to go to food trucks, like from (Taylor-Brawner Park) to downtown, downtown to Belmont, but it was overwhelmingly ‘don’t want them.’”
Councilwoman Maryline Blackburn said her recent experience with scooters did not leave a good taste in her mouth.
“I was downtown (in Atlanta) over the weekend, and I was just about run over by one of them,” she said. “They just have no regard for people on the sidewalk walking, whereas if you’re on the Silver Comet Trail walking, people (on bicycles) are like ‘To the left’ or whatever.”
If approved Monday, the prohibition would go into effect immediately. The ban would not apply to personally owned scooters, only those offered by companies like Bird or Lime.
Several companies have begun offering rentable scooters over the last few years, while ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft have slid into the market with their own scooter services.
The scooters are dockless, which means riders rent them, ride to their destination and leave the scooters there, paying via a mobile app. Companies that offer the scooters typically pick them up during the night for charging, offering to pay users to gather the scooters, take them home and charge them.
Jennifer Bennett, spokesperson for the city, previously said Smyrna has not been approached by a company looking to set up shop in the city, but other neighboring areas have.
Also discussed briefly Thursday was the city’s possible project list for a renewal of the 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. Council members scheduled a 4 p.m. meeting Monday to speak to city staff about proposed projects ahead of the regularly scheduled council meeting.
Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce and Cobb county staff laid a timeline in February for a November 2020 vote to renew the county’s 1-percent SPLOST.
Approved by voters in Nov. 2014, collections for the current 2016 SPLOST began Jan. 1, 2016, and spans six years, expiring on Dec. 21, 2021. Boyce is proposing a continuation of the 1 percent tax for another five years instead of the current six-year length.