Knoxville rolls out new electric scooter safety education campaign

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Electric scooter programs and companies are under review across Tennessee, with many leaders calling for changes to safety plans.

A new electric scooter safety education campaign will run through the end of July in Knoxville. Forty “stickers” with two safety reminders have been placed around downtown Knoxville to remind riders of the proper procedures when on a scooter.

City leaders say the same changes don’t have to be made, because they were part of the approval process before scooters hit the roads.

“We wanted to push out the education piece, first. Then we can start doing warnings and citations on the sidewalks,” said Chip Barry, Deputy Chief of Operations for The City of Knoxville.

The July campaign, sponsored by Visit Knoxville, outlines two rules for electric scooter riders on sidewalk stickers: No riding on the sidewalks and follow the rules of the road.

Barry said safety was one of the key points during the application process, where scooter companies submitted their bids to operate within the city limits. There is a 500 scooter limit, set by the city, during the year-long pilot period

“They’re interacting with us as much as we’re interacting with them,” said Barry, referring to the relationships between Spin, VeoRide, and the city.

Knoxville riders are also reminded of road-rules and operating procedure when using the applications to unlock and ride the scooters, for both companies. There is an age-requirement of 16-years-old, reminder to wear a helmet, and to obey the rules of the road” notification that appears before a rider can use the scooter.

Many riders, catching on.

“For one, it feels like the safer thing to do [to ride in the street] because there’s a lot of obstacles on the sidewalk. You ride a bike in the street and not the sidewalk, feels like the same thing,” said Kevin Miller, a Spin rider.

As of July 1, 2019, riders can be cited for DUI if driving a scooter while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The same rules apply to electric scooter riders as those operating a vehicle.

During Knoxville’s pilot period, riding scooters on the sidewalks is discouraged, Barry said officers can only enforce the rule at this time with a warning.

Barry says a timeline for ticketing and citations will follow, but for now, the city is focusing on educating riders before enforcement.

There are monthly meetings with city leaders, scooter representatives, and law enforcement to discuss the electric scooter program.

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