Little Rock sours on Lime's e-scooter program; May wrap-up set for city’s trial run

The new has worn off Little Rock’s experience with e-scooters. The scooters were introduced downtown earlier this month as part of a six-month trial.
The new has worn off Little Rock’s experience with e-scooters. The scooters were introduced downtown earlier this month as part of a six-month trial.

Little Rock leaders are planning to end the city's relationship with scooter company Lime, citing "disappointment" with the company's handling of rider safety since the dockless devices arrived less than a month ago, according to a letter obtained Wednesday by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The letter sent to the chief executive officer of Neutron Holdings Inc., which operates Lime scooters, said the city plans to end its agreement with the company on May 15 and "forgo the pursuit of a superseding contract." The scooters were introduced as part of a six-month trial arranged by previous Mayor Mark Stodola.

The company, which operates in a number of cities around the country, dropped off dozens of scooters around downtown on Jan. 14.

In Little Rock, the scooters have drawn complaints from residents, including concerns about children riding the scooters and that "safety provisions are largely lacking," the letter said.

"The City has been disappointed in Lime's lack of attention to the safety of its riders and pedestrians," read the letter, signed by City Attorney Tom Carpenter.

Todd O'Boyle, director of government relations in the Southeast for Lime, said in a statement that the company is "committed to working with the City of Little Rock to renegotiate the terms of our pilot program."

The statement stopped short of listing what those specific changes might be but said the company wants to have a "mutually beneficial, long-term agreement."

The pilot program allowed for up to 500 scooters throughout the downtown area, after Lime's initial deployment near and in the River Market District.

Users rent the scooters for a fee using a mobile app and can travel up to 15 mph once aboard. The mobile app tracks where the scooters are around the city, and users can leave the scooters outdoors.

But the new trend appears to have hit roadblocks among residents, who have taken to social media to detail near-misses, children riding in the streets and other safety worries.

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said Wednesday that the city has received "numerous complaints."

"The last thing we want is someone to use and misuse the scooters and we have a death, which is the worst-case scenario," Scott said.

Reader poll

Should Lime scooters remain in Little Rock?

  • Yes 51%
  • Yes, but with changes 23%
  • No 25%

1128 total votes.

City officials could not provide specific information.

The scope of injuries from scooter riders in Little Rock is difficult to track. One of the larger main emergency rooms in the city has yet to see any cases.

UAMS Medical Center has not treated patients with scooter-related injuries, said Katrina Dupins, media relations manager at the hospital.

The lack of injuries doesn't necessarily mean people haven't sought care elsewhere, she said.

A recent study on the American Medical Association's JAMA Network Open website examined scooter-related injuries treated at two urban emergency departments associated with an academic medical center in Southern California.

Of 249 patients who had scooter-related injuries, researchers said:

• 27.7 percent suffered contusions, sprains and lacerations.

• 31.7 percent had fractures.

• 40.2 percent had head injuries.

• Fifteen were admitted into a hospital from the emergency room, two with severe head injuries.

Reaction on social media to Little Rock's decision on Lime scooters was mixed. Some residents were fine with the decision, others disappointed.

Scott said the scooters' instructions are at odds with city ordinances because they tell riders not to use the vehicles on sidewalks. City rules classify the scooters as mobility devices, which are banned from traveling on roads.

But the mayor said he is not ruling out another program for the state's largest city.

He said that he and other Little Rock officials plan to invite alternative transportation companies to submit proposals.

Scott's twitter account stated: "No need to be disappointed. Our pilot program ... remains in effect until May. In the near future, we will issue an RFQ [request for proposal] to all scooter providers to find the best fit for its residents. We'll continue to prioritize the balance of public safety and quality of life."

Metro on 01/31/2019

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