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Electric scooter

Scooter riders talk on a trail along Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas. Lincoln's proposed ordinance would ban electric scooters from sidewalks or multi-use trails.

As many as three companies could have their dockless, electric scooters on the streets in Lincoln next year.

The scooters are expected to operate within the downtown area, said City-County Planning Director David Cary, though that isn't spelled out in the ordinance establishing the city's pilot program.

Scooter users would need to be at least 16 years old and couldn't drive them on sidewalks or multi-use trails, according to the ordinance. 

Scooter speeds would be capped at 15 mph. 

Lincoln's City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance at 3 p.m. Monday in the County-City Building, 555 S. 10th St.

Establishing a pilot program gives the city the ability to control the use of these scooters, prevent bad operators from setting up shop and fix problems that arise with the companies cleared for the program, Cary said.

Lincoln Transportation and Utilities officials would solicit applications from qualified companies to operate under the pilot project, which would end Dec. 31, 2020.

The city hopes to establish the rules of operating before the scooters are on the ground and available for rent, he said.

But some council members and a downtown resident have expressed concerns about pedestrian safety.

"I don’t see it there," Councilman Roy Christensen said of the ordinance as proposed. 

Councilman James Michael Bowers worried about whether Lincoln's infrastructure can handle scooters and about the safety of those operating them. 

In Omaha last week, a City Council member sought to immediately end the city's scooter program after a 9-year-old who illegally used a scooter was seriously injured in a collision with a city bus.

The scooters have proven popular in Omaha, where the city's pilot program extends into November.

People took more than 148,000 scooter rides from May 13 to Aug. 20, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The majority of rides were clustered in the downtown, Midtown Crossing, Aksarben Village and Benson areas.

Nationwide, scooters have shown up in many cities searching for unique and appealing transportation solutions.

Supporters say they are an affordable and easy way to make a short trip, but without breaking a sweat.

Shannon Dawson, a downtown Lincoln condo owner, said after her experience living in San Diego for three months earlier this year, she believes the scooters bring more trouble than benefit.

The scooters overwhelmed sidewalks and were abandoned just about anywhere, she said.

"Many scooter users clearly had little experience," Dawson said in an email to the newspaper. "Some had total disregard for pedestrian and traffic rules. They entertained themselves by scooting side to side, leaving downtown residents to feel like bowling pins." 

Downtown Lincoln Association President and CEO Todd Ogden said the association has been involved in the discussions leading up to the proposed ordinance. 

Downtown businesses and the association want to keep the sidewalks safe for pedestrians and clear so they can be cleaned by the association's crews, Ogden said.

Some companies have a better track record with that than others. 

"We want to make sure the ones that come in are doing it the right way," he said.

Christensen objects to having the city play gatekeeper in this enterprise, he said.

"I don’t believe government should be in the business of picking winners and losers," he said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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