'Scooternado': Miami orders ride-share two-wheelers off its streets

by Reuters
Friday, 30 August 2019 19:52 GMT

By Joey Roulette

Aug 30 (Reuters) - With Hurricane Dorian threatening to deliver winds as high as 130 mph to Florida's Atlantic coast, Miami has ordered thousands of electric ride-share scooters scattered around the city to be collected and secured, preventing them from becoming dangerous projectiles when the dangerous storm arrives.

The state's largest city said on Friday it told six companies providing residents and tourists with two-wheeled scooters for hire to round up the equipment days before Dorian's expected arrival, possibly as a deadly Category 4 hurricane.

In making the order, Miami is joining municipalities across the state that have urged companies to collect the vehicles, which have become a ubiquitous sight in the streets and sidewalks of cities across Florida and across the country.

Ken Russell, a Miami City commissioner, said in a Twitter message that the city expects the companies to collect all scooters by Friday as "winds expected to increase on Saturday evening," quipping with a hashtag "#scooternado."

Dorian is on track to slam Florida's east coast around Monday with Category 4 winds topping 130 miles per hour (209 kph). The Miami-based National Hurricane Center describes Category 4 storms as capable of causing "catastrophic damage" including severe damage to well-built homes.

"A scooter like that is another object that could become a dangerous projectile with high winds," city spokesman John Heffernan told Reuters on Friday.

Six companies including Bird Rides Inc and Lime have deployed the dockless, two-wheeled vehicles in the thousands in Miami as part of a pilot program.

"Those six companies have been directed by the city to get out there and remove all the scooters by noon today," Heffernan said.

As the scooters' presence expand across the United States and Europe in recent months, serving as a swift means of short-distance travel, some residents and businesses have complained that they clutter sidewalks when parked and endanger pedestrians when driven.

After using a scooter, a rider is free to leave it most anywhere, without securing it in a rack or storage facility.

The prospect of 130 mph winds pose a new challenge for scooter management. The scooter companies said they were cooperating with the city's order.

"We are collecting and safely storing our scooters in the City of Miami," a spokesperson for Bird said in a statement. With vehicles in five other Florida cities, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company was already scaling back deployment and began collecting the scooters in Miami when it received a notice with a noon deadline.

Orlando, which has agreements with HOPR Bike Share and Neutron Holdings Inc, which operates the name Lime, for hundreds of electrically assisted pedal bikes, said "both companies have started to remove the bikes this morning," spokeswoman Karyn Barber told Reuters.

The city code requires companies with bike share permits to remove the vehicles ahead of severe thunderstorms, she said.

On Thursday, Lime started to pull some 1,500 scooters and 500 bicycles off the sidewalks of Orlando, Miami and Fort Lauderdale on the east coast and reduced its fleet size in Tampa, on Florida's west coast, company spokesman Russell Murphy told Reuters.

"We're in touch with each city and will comply with any request to prioritize safety," Murphy said. (Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; Editing by Frank McGurty and Alistair Bell)

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