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Scooters on City Streets Catch Attention of Kentucky Lawmakers

Shareable electric scooters have been ridden along the sidewalks and streets in Northern Kentucky's river cities, as well as Louisville, and now Kentucky lawmakers are discussing their use.

House Bill 258, sponsored by House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Ken Upchurch (R-Monticello) would both define and set operating standards for “electric low-speed scooters”—or e-scooters—like Bird scooters that have been available for rent via a phone app in Louisville and Northern Kentucky since last year. The scooters are growing in popularity, with Bird rentals now available in over 100 cities worldwide.

Sam Reed with Bird told the committee that HB 258 would allow e-scooters to legally operate much like bicycles on public streets and bicycle paths. It would also limit scooter speeds to 20 mph and set a minimum e-scooter rider age of 16.

“The equipment that we use, the e-scooters, are not currently defined in state law in Kentucky,” said Reed. “What this bill does is it essentially will follow the national regulatory consensus of other companies that are doing the same things were are—Uber, Lyft, Spin, dozens of others—by updating the vehicle code in Kentucky to treat e-scooters similar to bicycles.”

The bill would not prevent local governments from further regulating e-scooters, said Reed.

Reed described Bird scooters as a low-cost way to move people short distances. The average ride on a Bird scooter is 1.5 miles, he said, with each ride costing 15 cents per mile plus a $1 initial rental fee.

Riders of Bird scooters must be at least 18 years of age and upload an image of their driver’s license to operate one of the scooters, said Reed. They are also encouraged to wear a helmet, he said.

Rep. Russ Meyer (D-Nicholasville) asked Reed how similar Bird scooters are to bicycles that can be rented by app. They are similar, said Reed, although he said Bird scooters are “dockless” – meaning they don’t have to be returned to specific locations after a ride.

“(Bird) opens up these vehicles to be real, true last-mile transportation for folks,” said Reed.

HB 258 now goes to the full House for consideration.

From the Legislative Research Commission (with additional details from RCN)

Photo via Bird Scooter