Johnson City Press: Commissioners pass ordinance regulating scooter, bike sharing on first reading
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Commissioners pass ordinance regulating scooter, bike sharing on first reading

David Floyd • Jun 6, 2019 at 11:22 PM

Looking to cities like Nashville, which the Tennessean reports is considering a ban on scooters after a 26-year-old rider was struck by a car and killed, Johnson City commissioners are cautious about the prospect of a bike- or scooter-sharing company locating in the city.

Hoping to have a regulatory framework in place, the Johnson City Commission gave unanimous approval to the first reading of an ordinance that would set guidelines for bike and scooter sharing companies in the event one decides to locate in the city.

Commissioners need to approve the ordinance on two more readings before it goes into effect.

“This is really for our protection and for our citizens’ protection if (these companies) come,” said Mayor Jenny Brock.

City Manager Pete Peterson “strongly” suggested that commissioners start the process of putting an ordinance in place “If you’ve got something in motion, we’ve got a defensible position to at least regulate to the degree that’s outlined in this ordinance,” he said.

The change would amend title 15 of the city’s code of ordinances to include more specific regulations for electric bikes and motorized scooters.

Motorized and non-motorized scooters would not be allowed on roads with a speed limit greater than 30 miles per hour, and motorized scooters would be limited mechanically or digitally to a speed limit of 10 miles per hour.

In an effort to cut down on the number of devices abandoned in streets or sidewalks, the ordinance would require companies to to have a place to dock the scooters and bikes.

Development Services Director Preston Mitchell said the city would have the ability to confiscate the devices if they are left out of their docking location. 

The ordinance also requires that companies place the docking locations on private property, and Mitchell said the companies would have to have local offices and staff.

“That’s something many other communities have struggled with is that these companies decide to move into town, they’ll set up shop, they’ll drop off 500 or 1,000 units and then they’re gone,” Mitchell said. “And our ordinance says, ‘No, no, no, no, wait a minute.’”

Although staff say the city has received some interest by mobility sharing companies — Mitchell said he’d been recently contacted by a company called White Fox Scooters — Vice Mayor Joe Wise said the city is not actively attempting to recruit these businesses.

“We’re trying to anticipate their eventual arrival and have the policies in place that maintain some semblance of order for everybody else who uses the public right of way,” he said.

Beer in theaters

Commissioners also approved an ordinance on first reading that would allow beer in movie theaters, live theaters and the Pine Oaks Golf Course. The ordinance does not extend to other forms of alcohol.

Selling beer in movie theaters, said city attorney Sunny Sandos, has become common place in states across the country. In North Carolina, for example, there are 15 different theaters in 12 cities that sell alcohol, she said.

Johnson City is considering this change as AMC Theatres moves ahead with a roughly $6 million renovation of the AMC Classic Johnson City 14 cinema at 1805 N Roan St., which would include the addition of a bar.

Wise said he’s heard a wide range of opinions about this ordinance from constituents but noted that the issue boils down to fundamental fairness.

“I can’t make the case in my mind that, because you show movies, you shouldn’t serve beer while the trampoline place serves beer, while the bowling alley serves beer, while every restaurant in town serves beer,” Wise said. “I don’t come to this decision lightly, and that’s how I got there.”

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