Anyone who has driven around Great Bend recently likely has shared the road with people zipping around on electric scooters.
The scooters are part of a global fleet from the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Bird company.
They were brought to Great Bend by brothers Matt and Mason Hiss in order to bring a transportation alternative to town.
Riders must download the company’s app on their cellphone. Generally speaking, users are charged by the minute to ride.
Endorsed by the City of Great Bend, approximately 50 scooters have seen heavy use in the roughly two weeks since they were introduced.
They have also garnered some concern regarding their safety and the rules of the road that apply to them.
“The ordinance is open to interpretation and is being reviewed,” said Great Bend Police Chief Steve Haulmark. He has met with City Attorney Bob Suelter about what changes may need to be made.
In the meantime, “I do think they are a good thing,” he said of the scooters. “They are getting used. They are getting kids out and doing something.”
He urged scooter riders to obey basic safety rules and motorists to do the same. So far, he’s unaware of any reported problems relating to the scooters.
Where can they be ridden?
At issue are rules governing bicycles and “skateboards, motorized scooters, motorized skateboards and similar devices,” Haulmark said.
According to the Great Bend Code of Ordinances:
• Bicycles - “No person shall ride any bicycle upon a sidewalk in a business district or residential district of the city or upon walks reserved exclusively for pedestrians in the parks or public grounds of the city, provided, that nothing in this chapter shall prohibit the use of designated hike and bike paths by bicycles.” • Skateboards, etc. - “It is unlawful for any person to ride upon or operate any skateboard, motorized scooter, motorized skateboard or similar devices on the sidewalks, public parking lots in the downtown area of the city, in Jack Kilby Square or on any property owned by Unified School District Number 428.
“‘Downtown area’ means that area of the city from 10th Street to 19th Street from the west side of Stone Street to the east side of Kansas Avenue, inclusive.”
There has been some confusion, he said, concerning what sidewalks are off limits – city-wide or just downtown.
Within the Bird app itself, there is a safety feature. Most of the areas listed above as off limits are shaded in red on the app’s city map.
If a scooter crosses into one of these zones, it automatically shuts down. The same thing happens if it is ridden past the city limits.
Other riding rules
The Bird app also outlines other riding safety information.
It notes scooters should be ridden in bike lanes or close to the curb in the street, not on sidewalks. When parked, they should be close to the curb, not blocking sidewalks, doorways or driveways.
Riders must be 18 or older. They should wear a helmet, be alert, follow traffic signs, and avoid distractions, such as headphones and cellphones.
Only one rider is allowed on a scooter.
Rules are all well and good, but enforcing them is another matter, Haulmark said.
“For now, we are going to focus on education,” he said. Through conventional and social media, as well as interactions with riders, the city will highlight these requirements.