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E-Scooter Pilot Project Under Review In Normal

Two electric scooters parked on a sidewalk
Tim Evanson
Town of Normal Planner Mercy Davison said the largest concern the town has about an e-scooter program is clutter.

The Town of Normal is considering an electric scooter program.

Town Planner Mercy Davison said users put an app and credit card number on their phones and check out scooters when they want.

Davison said one of the challenges is to avoid clutter and uneven distribution of scooters if there are no docking stations. The GPS unit on each scooter is the key to that.

"If we say we don't want any parking in Uptown Circle, a rider would not be able to stop their scooter on the circle and hit 'end ride.' The scooter would tell them, no you can't end your ride here. You need to keep going until you find a place you are allowed to park. In the meantime, you are still paying."

Scooter company workers would reposition and recharge the vehicles overnight. Davison said the initial program might have about 150 scooters.

She said the GPS technology would also prevent speeding issues.

Credit Elvert Barnes / Flickr
Lyft offers rental scooters in Washington D.C.

"We draw a geo-fence around Uptown Normal and say in Uptown you can only go 10 miles per hour. The scooter will know that and as soon as the scooter enters that boundary, it will automatically slow to 10 miles an hour," said Davison.

The town currently bans motorized vehicles on the Constitution Trail. But with the advent of electric assist bicycles, electric skateboards, and e-scooters, Davison says the town might reconsider that.

"One thing is sure, we can't stop these vehicles from coming. The public wants them. It's our job to craft sensible regulations to make sure people can be safe and still get where they need to go and the way they want," said Davison.

She said the original intent of the motor prohibition on the trail was safety, to prevent vehicles that could go faster than the 20 mph speed limit on the trail. But electric assist bicycles and e-scooters can be limited to that.

Numerous large cities have begun scooter programs including Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon, and St. Louis. Davison said quite a few college towns have started e-scooter rentals as well. She said the town is paying particular attention to how West Lafayette, Ind., and Purdue University are navigating the entry of the new conveyance. She said Illinois State University and the town are cooperating to create regulation, speed limits, and geo-fencing for the program.

The town is working with Zagster, which already runs a bike-sharing program, and the company SPIN, owned by Ford Motor Company on the e-scooter project. Davison said a couple other companies have also made tentative contacts with the town.

Davison said the proposal for a one-year pilot program could come to the town council in two weeks to a month.

Hear the entire GLT interview with Mercy Davison about e-scooters.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.