Scooters are returning to Charlotte, and there will be even more of them

Scooters are returning to Charlotte, and there will be even more of them
(Ben Williamson/WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Steve Harrison/The Charlotte Observer) - Were you disappointed when the new scooters vanished last week from Charlotte's sidewalks after a brief debut?

They will be back next week, and there will be more of them.

Charlotte has reached an agreement with Lime and two other companies to bring as many as 300 scooters back to the city, starting Monday.

Lime launched its scooter-share program last week without a permit, prompting the city to issue a cease-and-desist letter to the start-up. Lime then asked its users to email city officials, urging them to let the scooters stay. One City Council member complained that Lime was "jamming" his inbox.

After a few days of that back-and-forth, Lime agreed last Friday to remove its scooters from city sidewalks.

Charlotte isn't the only city where Lime and other scooter companies have launched service without a permit. In Honolulu, the city's mayor said Lime was operating illegally, and there have been similar spats in Nashville and San Francisco.

Charlotte officials said they would work with Lime to bring them back. The city has also reached an agreement with the companies Bird and Spin, which are also launching a scooter-share program. The city said another company, Razor, has contacted the city, but it can't deploy scooters until July.

Bird and Spin are expected to start scooter service Monday, the city said.

In October, the city launched a pilot program with Lime, Spin, Ofo and Mobike to bring 2,000 bicycles to the city. They are unlocked with a cellphone app, and can be left anywhere.

The 300 scooters will be added to the bike-share pilot program.

There are still questions about the scooter program.

Spin and Bird are telling their customers that the scooters should be ridden in bike lanes and roadways, and Lime has not said where users should ride them. During Lime's initial rollout, many people rode them on sidewalks.

Liz Babson, the director of the Charlotte Department of Transportation, said the law is not clear on where people can ride scooters.

The General Assembly in 2002 passed a law that said "personal assisted mobility devices" could be used on city sidewalks. The city has said it believes that was referring to Segways, which were introduced a year earlier.

In any case, Babson said Thursday the city is going to give people flexibility on whether to ride in streets, bike lanes or on sidewalks.

The same goes for where the scooters should be left when the rider is finished. The city is treating them like bikes, which are sometimes left on the sidewalk.

When the city issued its cease-and-desist letter, it said it was worried about the safety of the scooter-share program. It doesn't appear there are any new safety regulations, however.

All three companies are requiring their riders be at least 18 years old. They also all recommend that riders wear helmets, though they don't provide them.