City approves new caps, rules for scooter-rental companies

The city of Indianapolis on Friday approved new regulations for scooters and other dockless shared-use mobility devices, imposing caps on the number of overall licenses in the city and how many scooters each company can have.

The Department of Business and Neighborhood Services board also approved rules that would force scooter companies to place 10% of their fleet in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods—a move that city officials hope will ease some residents' mobility challenges.

The rules, which go into effect in mid-July, also limit the number of scooters that can be placed in high-use districts such as the Mile Square, Fountain Square and Mass Ave.

There will now be a cap of six licenses for dockless shared-use mobility companies in Indianapolis. The city currently has five businesses or organizations with such licenses: Bird, Lyft, Lime, Spin and the Pacers Bikeshare. However, the Pacers Bikeshare does not deploy any dockless devices.

There also will be a cap of 1,000 devices per license-holder, although the size of that cap could go up or down depending on each company’s utilization rates over time.

For instance, if average ridership for a scooter company during a month-long period—calculated as the number of daily rides divided by the number of deployed devices—falls below two rides per day, a license-holder would have to decrease its fleet. If it averages more than five rides per day, companies could increase fleets beyond 1,000 scooters.

“The ability to increase or decrease fleet size is strictly tied to utilization” as well as compliance with other rules, like making sure scooters are placed in access areas, according to Sonya Seeder, an administrator at the city’s Department of Business and Neighborhood Services.

The rules also require scooter and other dockless mobility device companies to place at least 10% of their devices in certain access zones—including the northwest side, near-west side, near-east side and far-east side.

Miles Schuck, an associate of government partnerships at Bird, spoke in favor of the regulations, saying that his company hoped to “find new riders” in the access zones and was excited to help “increase connectivity” for residents of Indianapolis.

However, scooter rides in access areas will not count as part of a company’s ridership calculations to determine their fleet size, at least for the time being.

“In those access zone areas, people may not be as used to relying on scooters,” Seeder said. “We don’t want to penalize our partners for doing what they want them to do, which is providing that last-mile transpiration for all people in the city.”

Karen Haley, director of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, encouraged the city in the future to include ridership in low-income neighborhoods in the calculation that determines a company’s fleet size, so that companies would have an incentive to make sure low-income residents are using their services, “as opposed to counting easy wins.”

The rules follow regulations that the City-County Council passed last July, establishing licenses for shared-use mobility devices.

Seeder said the city wrote the regulations after studying scooter use data since last year, and looking at what other cities have done. In particular, she said Indianapolis followed the city of Louisville as an example for regulations.

"We’ve been collecting and analyzing data since that time,” Seeder said. 

The rules approved Friday did not address several “hot-button” scooter issues, Seeder acknowledged, including the riding of scooters on sidewalks or greenways, parking issues, fees and fines, helmet-wearing or how to handle unsafe scooter riders.

Board member Anthony Bridgeman asked why the city was “taking an incremental approach instead of addressing those things.”

Seeder said restricting the size of scooter fleets and controlling which neighborhoods they could be used in would partially ease some safety and ridership issues.

Kevin Sifferlen, another board member, encouraged scooter companies and the city of Indianapolis, to educate the general public on safety of scooters and how to use them.

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