Bill to fine for left lane loitering advances

CAPITOL LETTERS

BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE GARY WORTHAN

District 11, R-Storm Lake

Chairman of the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee

In last week’s newsletter I mentioned that one of the bills that I have been assigned to floor manage this session is HSB38; “An act relating to stand up scooters and providing penalties.” When those in my generation think about scooters we go back to the scooters of our childhood that consisted of a short platform mounted between two wheels with a handle bar extending from the front steering wheel and where the “deluxe” model had a brake on the rear wheel.  We powered these scooters by putting one foot on the platform and pushing with the other foot. The scooters of HSB38 are not the scooters of our childhood.

This modern day scooter is similar in appearance to those of our memory but that is where the similarity ends. The platform is not quite four inches deep and contains a battery that will power the scooter at speeds of up to 20 mph. It also has a GPS unit and a scanner that will accept an app from a smart phone. Several companies are proposing to distribute these scooters in metropolitan areas and charge for their use. A person will open an account with, and install an app from the company, on their smart phone. With the app they will be able to use GPS to find a scooter nearby, unlock it and ride it for as long and as far as they desire. One company’s proposed rates will be one dollar for the initial unlock and fifteen cents per minute of usage. When you arrive at your destination, you lock the scooter, take a picture of it to show that it is not creating a hazard, send the picture to the company, and walk away. The company will have local contractors that will use the scooter’s GPS to locate them, pick them up periodically, recharge the battery and distribute them for the next day’s usage.

It all sounds pretty simple, but as with anything, the devil is in the details. Here are some of the issues that have come up, some resolved and some not. What vehicle classification does a scooter fit, bicycle or motorized vehicle? The companies want them to conform under bicycle regulation but there are some forces here in the capitol that say they are motor vehicles, and should be registered and licensed. Where can they be used; bicycle paths, bike lanes, sidewalks, roadways?  The one restriction that I insisted on was that they cannot be used on a roadway where the speed limit is higher than 35 mph. I believe that any other restrictions should be reserved for local communities to decide.  Who can use them? If they are considered bicycles, there would be no age restrictions. If motor vehicle regulations apply, then do the moped 14-year-old rules apply or licensed drivers? This issue is unresolved. The most serious issue, as I see it, is the issue of liability.  If a scooter injures a pedestrian or is in an accident with another vehicle, is there coverage through a home owner’s policy, a renter’s policy or is there need for a new policy or policy rider to cover scooter usage. The insurance industry has a lot of concern over this issue and does not have a good answer for us.

Several of my colleagues have experience with these ride share scooters in larger metropolitan areas, and are excited about the possibility of them coming to Iowa. It remains to be seen whether they will be popular enough to be viable in our cities, but there are several companies that are willing to test the market.

My bill to asses a fine to drivers who impede traffic by loitering in the left lane advanced another step yesterday, when it passed out of the Transportation Committee. The bill has a lot of bipartisan support and the Majority Leader is anxious to move it on the floor and send it to the Senate.

Our next forum in Storm Lake will be on Saturday, March 16 at 10 a.m. at King’s Pointe. I hope to see your there.