By next month, it could be against the law to ride electric scooters on Upper Arlington sidewalks, but they won't be banned altogether while officials determine how best to regulate them.
Upper Arlington officials have been eyeing the recent trend in alternative transportation even as Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus City Council have moved to bar the scooters from sidewalks in that city.
A Sept. 4 request by City Manager Ted Staton to ban e-scooters for 90 days while the city attorney's office and other officials discuss how they can be legally used wasn't supported by Upper Arlington City Council.
Instead, council is considering a proposal to put the scooters in the same category as "motorized bicycles" for a 90-day period.
That proposal could move to council for its Oct. 8 meeting.
As proposed by the city attorney's office, council could consider outlawing the scooters from sidewalks and "any public park path used for pedestrian use."
Riders also would be subject to laws governing reckless operation, speeding and driving under the influence.
According to a Sept. 24 staff report from City Attorney Jeanine Hummer and Assistant City Attorney Darlene Fawkes Pettit, city officials intend to continue to examine the issue during the 90 days the scooters would be considered motorized bikes. Unless council takes emergency action, that period would begin 30 days after e-scooter legislation is passed.
Council could elect to extend the designation beyond that period, but the attorneys indicated regulations specific to electric scooters are likely forthcoming.
"The purpose of this legislation is to make clear that the city intends to regulate the operation of e-scooters," the staff report from Hummer and Pettit stated.
Over the summer, the Lime and Bird companies expanded into Columbus by offering rent-by-the-mile e-scooters. Typically, people pick up the scooters and drop them off at designated spots throughout the city.
The Sept. 24 report from the city attorney's office says Upper Arlington has seen "increased usage" of electric scooters in and around the city. However, Pettit said the office currently is unaware of any e-scooter drop-off points in Upper Arlington.
Upper Arlington Police officer Bryan McKean said the department hasn't dealt with e-scooter problems.
"We understand that scooters are coming and that (city officials) are looking at it," McKean said. "We're just waiting to see what they do."
He said officers already have the ability to stop riders they suspect of operating e-scooters while intoxicated and charging them with OVI. As of Sept. 28, he wasn't aware of any e-scooter OVIs in Upper Arlington.
"We haven't had any of that," he said. "We've charged people with OVI for riding bicycles while intoxicated in the past. Any vehicle you're operating while intoxicated, we handle that all the same."
Councilman Jim Lynch said classifying electric scooters as motorized bikes would be "the first step" for city leaders to establish regulations. He also said he and several council members support adopting regulations for e-scooters, but he's not in favor of banning them.
"I'm hesitant to force an immediate ban, as I don't believe we are seeing a problem with these new devices in our community," Lynch said. "In fact, I haven't seen an electric scooter in Upper Arlington in nearly a month."
Another reason Lynch didn't support a ban, temporary or otherwise, is because of the scooters' potential to bring tourists, shoppers and other guests to the community.
"With Ohio State football season upon us and so many people visiting Columbus, I don't want to discourage fans from visiting our small businesses, however they choose to get here," he said.
Councilman Brian Close said he's used e-scooters in downtown Columbus. He also opposes banning them in Upper Arlington while regulations are being contemplated.
"We need to regulate scooters in some capacity, but I didn't want to ban them outright until we get additional information," he said. "I haven't seen a ton of these in Upper Arlington. I don't think they're a nuisance at this point. I'd also love to see alternative forms of transportation -- not just cars coming through Upper Arlington."
Close said he seeks a "common sense" approach to e-scooters, which includes reviewing how communities nationwide have regulated them and hearing from residents who use them.
He's also interested in reviewing laws related to all alternative forms of transportation, because there currently are differences between where people on skateboards, inline skates and golf carts can legally ride them in Upper Arlington.
"It seems to be a little inconsistent," Close said. "I think it's a little confusing.
"We need to regulate (e-scooters), but I don't think we should hurry on to judgments on that. Let's see what's out there and get it right."