The city of Edina is parting ways with the Lime scooter-share service following a two-year run that inspired a range of complaints from residents.
After a summer in which the city got swept up in the national electric scooter trend, the Edina City Council unanimously voted Jan. 7 to let the city’s memorandum of understanding with Lime expire in March. That was the agreement that allowed scooters in the city as planners looked to benefit from the alternative mode of transportation in accordance with Edina’s “living streets” vision.
But, residents’ complaints about the scooters were too compelling for city staff or the council to ignore. Chief among the complaints were safety concerns, especially at Centennial Lakes Park, which has a notable presence of senior citizens and pedestrians, City Manager Scott Neal said.
“They were afraid. They were really concerned with getting injured by somebody running into them. And, that’s the kind of thing that has been happening nationwide with scooters. So, it’s not an irrational fear in any sense,” Neal said.
Other complaints included the obstruction of sidewalks where the scooters were parked, failures of riders to yield to pedestrians, underaged users and the lack of protective headgear among the ridership, according to Edina Transportation Planner Andrew Scipioni.
Plus, the scooters weren’t helping the city meet its multi-modal transportation goals, Scipioni said.
“Anecdotally, based on the complaints we received, the usage we expected in 2019, in our opinion, is mostly recreational,” he said, noting the complaints centered around Centennial Lakes, the Promenade and Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail.
The city has too few adequate travel lanes to properly host a dockless scooter-share program such as Lime, according to Scipioni.
“Edina, in my opinion, has insufficient infrastructure at this time to accommodate this type of micro-mobility service,” he said.
One problem, he explained, is that scooters aren’t allowed on sidewalks, but at the same time, the city lacks the bike lanes that riders would use instead.
Several city departments fielded complaints regarding the scooters, making it difficult to quantify the comments, Scipioni said. But Lime did track complaints over its two-year presence in Edina, finding that 70% of the 98 complaints it received over two years had to do with scooter parking. Half of those complaints were determined to be “founded,” and the other half “unfounded.”
A “founded” complaint would be a scooter lying across a sidewalk, for instance. But people had aesthetic complaints even when the scooters were properly parked, accounting for many of the “unfounded” complaints as identified by Lime.
“We learned there are residents that dislike looking out their bedroom window and seeing a scooter parked in the boulevard, even if it is legally parked,” Scipioni said.
The city’s relationship with Lime began in 2018 when the company instituted a dockless bike-share program in Edina. Toward the end of that year, a small fleet of scooters was added. To begin the 2019 riding season, Lime ditched bikes and exclusively deployed scooters, which proved dramatically more popular than the pedal-powered transportation.
From May through November in 2019, Lime recorded 7,446 scooter trips in Edina, compared to 1,265 bike trips the previous year.
While the scooters were a bigger draw than the bikes, they didn’t catch on like they did in Minneapolis. Edina had 70% fewer Lime scooter trips per capita than its larger and denser neighbor.
Councilmember Mike Fischer was thinking about density when he cited the Southdale District as an area where scooters might one day be appropriate.
“I imagine an environment where that could somehow work if we were to regulate that,” Fischer said. “ … A few years from now, we might want to study that a little closer.”
One option, he suggested, would be to establish “geofencing” around the Southdale District that would use GPS technology to keep the scooters within the prescribed area. It would be similar to the tactic the city used to keep scooters out of
Centennial Lakes after receiving complaints last summer. There, “geofencing” prevented scooters from being left in the park, where users would be continuously charged for the ride if they parked the devices within the boundaries of the “geofence.”
While Edina takes a step back from the scooter craze, Scipioni told the council to expect the trend to continue in nearby communities. “These devices are very popular and I don’t expect that this trend is going to decline necessarily anytime soon. So I think the city should still be taking steps to address issues in the future when it comes back,” he said.
Mayor Jim Hovland remained aspirational regarding the benefits of “micro-mobility,” which refers to electric scooters and other light personal transportation devices meant to cover shorter distances. “Quite a lovely term, that micro-mobility, if you can make that work in your community,” Hovland said.
Councilmember Mary Brindle doesn’t think the city has seen the last of the scooters. “We’ve put our toe in the water,” she said. “We’ve got an idea of what they are and how people use them. And our day will come, I think.”
– Follow Andrew Wig on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent