A pair of BandWagon electric scooters sits in front of The Metropolitan downtown Monday. In total, BandWagon has 27 electric scooters in town, and other companies are looking to bring more into Cheyenne during CFD. Margaret Austin/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Local residents have a new way to get around town – by electric scooter.

A few scooters are already scattered around downtown, but City Councilman Tom Segrave said they’re expecting a significant amount to flow into the city for the 125th anniversary of Cheyenne Frontier Days.

As a result, the City Council approved three emergency ordinance changes Monday evening that regulate these kinds of rideshare electric scooter operations – after more than an hour of heated discussion about the timing, possible consequences and the need for regulation before CFD.

“It's something that we've never had to look at before. So we've gotten advice from other communities that have dealt with this, and we're just getting the basics in place so that it's not totally unregulated,” said Segrave, the ordinances' sponsor.

With the changes, companies looking to bring the scooters to town will need to have insurance and a license from the city that will cost $200 annually, and they’ll also have to pay an additional $5 for each scooter or bike they have in the city. The city will also have the power to strip businesses of their licenses should they not follow the regulations.

Had the council not approved the ordinances Monday, City Attorney Mike O'Donnell suspected a number of scooters would've been brought to town anyway. About 30 scooters are already around the streets of Cheyenne through BandWagon, a product of local Blue Pig Presents owner Hamilton Byrd, who has been working with the Metropolitan Planning Organization on the pilot launch of its scooters.

During discussions, O'Donnell said, “If we delay this week, I’m afraid we’re going to lose Frontier Days.”

That issue largely came into play Monday night, because Bird, one of the nation's leading scooter companies, notified the city of plans to bring about 50 scooters to town generally and upwards of 150 during CFD. Without the emergency approval, Bird still would've been able to locate in Cheyenne due to lack of regulations.

Bird’s Michael Covato told the council they support the regulations and said they want to build a constructive relationship, saying, "This is something we are hoping to offer a year from now, five years from now, 25 years from now.”

A number of council members mainly voiced concerns about passing these regulations so quickly, but the need for some regulations overrode those concerns – with a two-week postponement proposed by Councilman Mark Rinne being voted down. He also suggested capping the number of scooters in town to 80, which was voted down with only Rinne and Councilman Bryan Cook voting yes.

"Based on history and business and how we regulate industry, I think putting a cap on it is not what government should do," Councilman Ken Esquibel said. O'Donnell and a number of other council members also voiced concerns about overreach and legality with the scooter cap.

After about an hour and a half of discussion, the ordinances were passed, with Councilman Richard Johnson as the only no vote on all three ordinances. Still, it was not due to a strong opposition to scooters or what they'll bring to town, he said.

"I'm not voting no just because I think this is a bad idea," Johnson said. "I'm voting no because of the expediency of this; it basically hasn't been vetted by the public well enough for me to actually make a decision on behalf of them."

Instead of creating new codes altogether, the city added the scooter regulations to existing bicycle regulations to create uniform rules of the road.

Those riding the scooters will be held to the same standard as cyclists when it comes to traffic rules. Scooters don’t have the green light to run through stop signs and red lights or speed through pedestrian areas. Residents should also be aware that driving a scooter drunk is still driving under the influence and that dangerous accidents can occur, even on a scooter.

“Whether you’re on a bike you personally own or a scooter you rented, you have operation requirements of how and where you ride,” said the Metropolitan Planning Office’s Jillian Harris, who drafted the regulations. “This is a new mode of transport coming to Cheyenne, and we're setting forth the expectation that if you’re going to ride, you’re going to be a good steward of the road.”

About four years ago, such electric scooter rentals exploded in popularity quickly, especially for younger generations. A number of companies like Bird and Lime set up a rideshare-type business model, where they drop the scooters in a central location; riders locate the scooters using the GPS on their smartphone app; then they unlock the scooter through the app, ride it wherever, and leave it outside their destination for the next person to find.

Some of the more popular apps also utilize independent contractors who are paid to pick up the scooters at the end of each night, charge their batteries and place them back on the sidewalks, so that could become an option for Cheyenne residents, as well, depending on which companies come to town.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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