Scooters, scooters everywhere!

Hastings will allow two companies with 100 scooters each this year

Motorized scooter rental will return to Hastings this spring.

The Hastings City Council agreed to licenses with two scooter providers, who will rent out their motorized devices this year.

Last year, the city approved Bird Scooters in the city, and the company deployed 50 scooters in the city for several months. The person managing the scooters in Hastings left the company, and the scooter rental program was pulled.

This year, both Bird and Lime Electric Scooters will be licensed for 100 scooters each, meaning there will be plenty of two-wheeled transportation opportunities available for riders.

Community Development Director John Hinzman said the city will look at the scooter program after a couple months to make sure it’s running smoothly, as some concerns were raised about scooters being left around the city last year.

“Demand seemed to go well last year,” Hinzman said. “There were a couple complaints. For the first few months, demand was strong.”

He doesn’t know if Hastings can support 200 scooters. “I don’t really have a good answer for that, if there is a demand,” he said. “Would 200 be too much? That’s a good question.”

He said that’s why the agreements with the firms are being written with a reevaluation point.

“There’s a lookback provision. We can see if 200 scooters are really too much. If we see there’s a lot of abandoned scooters that have not been used, we can modify the amount of scooters,” he said.

He said there were no accidents reported last year with the scooters, though other issues were noted.

“On Pine Street, they were used quite a bit by minors which was concerning,” said Councilmember Lisa Leifeld. “That and riding with two people. Where does the liability fall with that?”

Hinzman said that when riders download the phone app to rent the scooters, they assume liability.

“It’s with the operators,” said Hinzman. Said Councilmember Trevor Lund, “Last year, my concern was is this stuff going to be laying all over the place? I voted in favor of it. I did not see well-organized leaving behind of scooters. If this goes forward, I would seriously look at the lookback option here to drive a real clear message to the operators that we expect that they are coming around on a regular basis and picking these things up. I wouldn’t let my kids leave their scooters in a boulevard for a week, and that’s what happens in our neighborhood.”

“I don’t want to be a negative person on this, but there needs to be some sort of responsibility on these two companies to do a good job of being a partner to our city and keeping these things moving,” said Lund. “It looked sloppy, and we deserve better than that.”

Hinzman said by ordinance, the scooters have to be stored upright and can’t look unkempt.

Jen Fox said the tourism committee liked having the scooters, and they were another way people could see the city.

“We had folks traveling around the city on Bird Scooters,” she said. “It’s nice to hear from the tourism perspective. The tourism board really enjoyed having them available. That was a boon to their fun tourism opportunities in the city.”

“I do like that it is another sustainable method of transportation in our town,” said Councilmember Angie Haus. “We don’t have many options.

City Council Committees

City Administrator Dan Wietecha said the council is going to rely more heavily this busy year on its committee structure.

“It is going to be a busy year, not just the normal work that we do,” he said. “We’re really going to be bringing a lot of stuff through our committees. We’re going to have to do that and do it well this year to work through the workload.”

He said committees will meet quarterly. “That way people can plan in advance,” he said. Committees will meet Mondays mainly, with possibly some Wednesday meetings.

“I think it’s a long time coming,” said Lund. “I think it’s great.”

“I very much agree,” said Fox. “I think this is an excellent step into leaning into our committee structure.”

On having set committee meetings Councilmember Dave Pemble commented, “It not only helps the folks that sit up here, but it really helps our staff be organized. This is a good step moving forward.”

January 18, 2023