MISSOULA – There are still questions but judging from the smiles of Wednesday, Missoula City Council members may be warming to the idea of electric scooters.
This is the year for city council races — but it was transportation, not politics that had Missoula City Council members zipping around downtown, getting a personal demonstration of the electric scooters which could be coming here soon.
Lime, one of the largest scooter sharing companies, already operates across the Northwest — including in Spokane, Boise, Seattle and Portland.
Although there’s no specific proposal for Missoula, the company brought four of the high tech rechargeable scooters, to let council members try them out and answer questions.
“Yeah, it’s a hoot to scoot. I was tracking my speed and I got up to 16-miles an hour. We were worried about going too fast but that felt quite fast. So I’m not so worried about folks going 20 or 30. Eleven seemed really nice,” Missoula City Councilwoman Michelle Cares said. “You can’t do turn signals, but otherwise really good.”
The city is still working out the details of what’s going to be in the proposed ordinance governing scooters and e-bikes. In fact, there’s a public hearing on Monday night.
But based on the brief demonstration it looks like the concept could be a big hit here in the Garden City.
“I’ve been in cities where this has been implemented incredibly well. And I’ve been in other cities where it’s just been a real mess,” Councilman Jordan Hess said.
“And so I want to make sure that if this is something that passes the council, and if there is interest for a system to come here, that the rollout is good,” he added.
“People are right when they say it’s a good option for that ‘last mile’ of getting from place to place,” Cares added. “There are some concerns and so I think a trial might be a good idea for our community.”
Lime’s representative admits there are issues still being worked out, from scooter recovery to bad parking. But by and large, he said it’s not much different than 100 years ago when downtown Missoula was coping with a mix of horses, cars and bikes.
“We had to figure out ways to teach people, what are the right things to do and help them do that every time. And so, the same thing is going on now,” said Lime’s Jonathan Hopkins.
“And that means it requires a little activity and brain power and really, just good partnerships between the companies and government to figure out, how do we bring people these new mobility options and reduce the risks or downsides,” he continued.
Hopkins told the council members that Lime would likely have to take the scooters out of service during the winter months in Missoula.
-Dennis Bragg reporting for MTN