In cities across the globe, rented electric scooters have become part of the urban landscape, often with mixed results.
Santa Fe won’t be among them, at least not anytime soon.
Mayor Alan Webber and the City Council unanimously approved a proposal Wednesday to prohibit the use of rented electric scooters on Santa Fe’s sidewalks and other public rights of way.
However, the governing body also approved a companion resolution calling on the city manager to “evaluate the suitability” of e-scooters in Santa Fe and recommend whether the city should develop a pilot program, possibly next year.
District 4 City Councilors Mike Harris and JoAnne Vigil Coppler both voted against the resolution, saying they opposed electric scooters outright.
“I, quite frankly, don’t even want to move forward on evaluation,” Harris said.
City Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta was more open to the idea of studying the pros and cons of rented electric scooters, saying they might benefit people in his district in southwest Santa Fe.
“A lot of things I hear at community meetings is the distance between neighborhoods and grocery stores and the lack of transportation options or direct transportation,” Abeyta said. “I’m not saying this is necessarily the solution, but it could possibly be one of the modes of transportation that residents in District 3 will take advantage of because of those distances we currently have between services and neighborhoods.”
City Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth, who spearheaded the proposals, said she brought them forward because she didn’t want Santa Fe to be unprepared like other cities.
“I think there have been communities that have experienced what’s called a ‘rogue drop,’ ” she said in a recent interview. “That’s basically where you wake up one morning and you have these things, and there aren’t any rules and that’s been kind of a disaster.”
Webber said it was incumbent on the city “to try to do a serious evaluation” and let the community weigh in.
“There may be folks who are not here tonight who think it’s going to be the greatest thing,” the mayor said. “I think it’s a very useful activity to take a hard look at this.”
A public hearing on the issue drew only one speaker, Linda Bunton, who told the mayor and city councilors she was glad they were studying the matter first.
“These scooters can really be a menace,” she said. “It’s a global problem, not just cities here in the United States.”
Bunton said Singapore was experiencing a “terrible problem” with electric scooters when she traveled there a year-and-a-half ago. She said there was a lot of “anger and unhappiness” over electric scooters.
“People would rent them. They’d throw them in parks. They’d throw them on steps. They’d throw them in entrances to buildings,” she said. “They were really a menace, and if you know anything about Singapore, it’s a very organized place. The scooters arrived before the rules did, and there are a lot of rules in Singapore.”
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.