As the weather warms, a familiar flock emerges: LimeBike riders. The neon-green bicycles, among other bike-sharing options in Ithaca, were critiqued in a University press release Thursday.
“Unregulated e-bikes, e-scooters could turn opportunity into nightmare,” the statement title read.
Prof. Karan Girotra, operations, technology and innovation, said that shared scooters tend to garner riders who lack experience. Company strategies to promote e-scooters could “saturate cities,” he warned in the press release.
Last week, Lime, the company behind LimeBike, cleared another hurdle in its path to bring e-scooters to Ithaca, following a proposal that illustrated concerns for rider safety. Ithaca’s Mobility, Accessibility and Transportation committee voted to recommend a pilot program following a nearly 20-page report submitted by commissioners Sarah Barden and Megan Powers.
The commissioners recommended regulations, including a curfew ending at 9 p.m., a ban on use in pedestrian-only areas and a maximum speed capability of 15 miles per hour. Lime requires scooter users to be 18 years old.
The report suggested that scooter use could improve accessibility for employees, which Prof. Nicholas Klein, city and regional planning, appeared to agree with.
“E-bikes and e-scooters are not going to solve every transportation problem for everyone, but they can be an additional item on the menu of transportation options in cities,” he said, according to the release.
The commission recommended an educational campaign to promote safe riding and data collection efforts to gauge use and accessibility. They also suggested that the city take advantage of GPS data from Lime to inform their long-term decisions.
Girotra warned against the danger of overwhelming the city with scooters.
“The strategy of many companies to simply saturate cities with a large number of scooters can lead to poor parking — a lack of regulation here can turn this opportunity into a nightmare,” his statement read.
The University has partnered with bikeshare companies before, including Zagster as part of the Big Red Bikes initiative that was launched in 2017.
Presently, the University warns against “tricky” state laws that prohibit operating e-bikes on public streets.
“Although buying, selling or renting an e-bike is legal, operating an e-bike on streets open for public use is NOT currently legal in New York State,” the Campus Sustainability Office website reads. “Until the New York State legislature passes a bill to legalize e-bikes for road use, a conflict with another vehicle or a pedestrian could subject you to significant penalties, whether or not you are at fault.”
“If you consistently ride lawfully, safely and respectfully, you may be able to ride an e-bike without inviting restrictive attention.”