Tampa City Council to discuss electric scooter safety ahead of pilot program

As Tampa prepares a pilot program for residents to use electric scooters, they are also taking a closer look at its safety.

In early April, city council members approved the program to make the trending transportation open available for residents. The program is expected to last one year, but before the pilot program launches in May, the city is planning to discuss a recently-released scooter safety report. 

The scooters may look like toys but considering they can reach speeds of 15 mph and many riders don’t use helmets, accidents can lead to some pretty severe, and even life-threatening injuries.

The city’s transportation director will present the safety report to city councilors Thursday morning. The report will include what other cities have run into after rolling our similar scooter-share programs.

The current plan is to sprinkle 1,800 scooters throughout parts of Tampa that -- like the city’s bike-share program -- would have designated terminals around town and could be rented through an app. Some cities that started their programs quickly ran into issues with the scooters quickly becoming both a safety hazard and nuisance.

In Austin, piles of scooters have simply been abandoned by riders who don’t bother looking for the designated scooter terminals to return them once they get where they’re going. The city has also revised its helmet laws after dozens of riders ended up in hospitals during a two-month trial period. 

The scooters wouldn’t have free reign of the city though, they’d only be allowed south of Martin Luther King Boulevard, and between Armenia Avenue and 40th Street. They won’t be allowed along Bayshore Boulevard or along the Riverwalk, which are deemed areas that are already congested with bikers, runners and walkers.

Current city law also dictates that electric scooters can only be driven on sidewalks -- not in streets and not in bike lanes. If things go well with the year-long pilot program, the scooters could become permanent.

The city council meeting begins at 9 a.m.