When Rep. Sean Eberhart went to the podium Wednesday to present his bill regulating scooters, he went in style: Riding a scooter, of course.
The Shelbyville Republican had rented a Bird electric foot scooter – or e-scooter – for the occasion.
E-scooters by Bird and competitor Lime started appearing in Indiana within the past year and have become a hit for their convenience and ease of use for some, with others aggravated by scooters being ridden on the sidewalks or parked blocking ramps. Their omnipresence in cities have resulted in both fun and frustration, with some complaining about damage to both public and private property.
Eberhart’s bill, House Bill 1649, seeks to put some brakes on, without pulling the plug on them. It would specify that e-scooters are not the same as a motor vehicle and exempts them from motor vehicle laws, but specifies that bicycle laws do apply to them. That means they have to have a light when ridden at night and can use bike lanes. They are barred from interstate highways under the bill, which also lets local authorities regulate their operation, including on highways, but clears up one issue: They can be parked on sidewalks, but can’t be ridden on them.
Eberhart, after scooting down the center aisle of the House chamber to hoots of laughter from his colleagues, said the scooters are “a newer technology that a lot of states have not addressed yet. This bill attempts to do is update our code and define what the scooter is.”
In addition, HB 1649 exempts e-scooter firms from financial responsibility for accidents, with that burden falling to the operator of a scooter. The bill also limits other aspects of a scooter’s design such as maximum speed, number of wheels, proper lighting and weight among others.
Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, told the House that scooters have caused more controversy in his college community than President Trump’s proposed border wall.
“While the rest of the country has been worrying about border walls, and government shutdowns and teacher pay, (in) the city of Bloomington all anybody has been talking about are these things,” he said, pointing to Eberhart’s parked scooter.
People either loved them or considered them “the scourge of the earth,” he said, and joked that how he voted on the bill could determine if he wins re-election in 2020.
As debate concluded, Eberhart hopped back on his scooter to ride back to his seat. It shut down before he made it.
The bill, though, passed 94-3, with one of those ‘no’ votes coming from Pierce.
Andrew Longstreth is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.