Local transportation is on the cusp of a new era. And it’s an era city officials should enter with caution.

An electric scooter service set up shop recently in Bozeman — probably the first city in the state with such a service. Blink Rides allows users — with the help of a smartphone app — to take an electric scooter between parking zones around downtown and other busy parts of the city. The new service is touted as a way to alleviate parking and traffic congestion and allow workers and visitors to get around busy commercial zones more easily.

While new to Montana, other states and cities have some experience with these types of services. And those experiences have been decidedly mixed. Injuries to novice riders have been reported along with vandalism. Scooters have been left randomly on streets and tossed into ditches. The purveyor of the Bozeman service is hoping those won’t be problems in the smaller Bozeman community where there is a certain sense of pride about appearances. Time will tell if that holds true.

So far, the Bozeman City Commission has not addressed the issue nor have commissioners voiced intentions to do so, opting instead to wait and see what unfolds as the scooters gain popularity. But this is something they will eventually need to get involved with.

Ordinances governing bicycles apply to the scooters and police are encouraged to enforce them. The scooters are prohibited on sidewalks and subject to the same traffic regulations that apply to cars. The scooters are programmed not to exceed 15 mph although, anecdotally, some observers have reported seeing them exceeding that limit.

There are some real benefits that could accrue from the success of electric scooters. It could help address the scarcity of parking downtown and help consumers visit more businesses in congested areas. But, if abused, they could also endanger pedestrians and users. And their use will be severely limited in winter weather — and that can be more than half the year.

The electric scooters could be a minor boon to the local economy. Or they could end up being a royal pain. City commissioners should get involved early and stay involved to ensure the latter doesn’t happen.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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