Hoboken City Council voted 8-0 to approve a proposed new contract with scooter rideshare companies Lime and OjO that will see 35 cents per ride go to the City for the duration of the pilot program. That money is reportedly meant to be invested in enforcement, education tools, and enhanced transportation infrastructure—including protected bike lanes.
“Hoboken’s electric scooter sharing program is one of the most popular in the world, and provides an environmentally friendly and convenient way to get around without driving a vehicle,” said Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla. “The approved contract amendment, negotiated by my transportation team over the past two months, will make six figure investments into much needed safety and enforcement tools to ensure rules and regulations of the program are followed. I completely understand the very valid concerns voiced by residents regarding pedestrian safety associated with the e-scooters, and am hopeful this contract will make the e-scooter experience safer for everyone.”
Hoboken’s scooter program has seen widespread criticism since its May 20 rollout. Injuries from the scooters have been a concern in markets worldwide—underscored by a fatality in Nashville the day before Hoboken rolled out its program. Apprehension here in Hoboken became apparent on day one, and uneasiness over the program continues in the face of ongoing anecdotal and documented misuse.
Three’s Company in Hoboken! pic.twitter.com/8Shp3kfYc1
— Bad Scooterists Hoboken (@BadHoboken) August 5, 2019
“Since the botched roll-out of the eScooter program in May, the administration has still not properly addressed the safety and enforcement issues on our streets,” said Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher. “That being said, I supported last night’s contract amendments because it allows Hoboken to collect a fair share of ridership revenue with hopes this additional money will be used to implement a more drastic and immediate safety and enforcement plan. Keeping our streets safe has been my top priority since we brought this program to Hoboken and it’s frustrating to see the administration use a last minute political gimmick, albeit a cause I support, to cover up the shortcomings in the new agreements.”
Stats on the scooter program show that it is indeed popular. Between the two companies, there have been 275,000+ trips, taken by 55,000+ unique riders adding up to 250,000+ miles traveled according to the latest data. Scooter advocates argue that those numbers translate to 8,000+ gallons of gas and 250,000+ lbs of CO2 saved.
But the safety issues continue to make the topic of scooters in Hoboken increasingly polarizing.
— RudeScooter (@RudeScooter) August 4, 2019
Councilman Michael DeFusco, who had initially advocated for the scooter program a year ago, says, “I have always believed eScooters can revolutionize micro-mobility and transportation in Hoboken, but the Mayor’s rushed roll-out has resulted in serious public safety concerns. For this program to succeed long term though, it’s important for us to immediately begin making the proper investments in rider safety and transportation infrastructure. The new contract that myself and Councilwoman Fisher advocated for allows us to generate substantial revenue to properly enforce scooter laws and build safer streets without straining taxpayer resources. I’m happy to see the mayor act on our call to renegotiate the existing contracts and put the safety of our residents above all else and believe these new terms are a step in the right direction in finding ways to implement a more sustainable program.”
The scooter program was launched as a pilot, meant to be reviewed after a six-month period—ending in November. Councilwoman Fisher adds, “A more tangible and comprehensive public safety plan is needed that includes these initiatives and does not over exhaust our law enforcement resources, otherwise we will need to reconsider the legislation to ban scooters from our waterfront at the next City Council meeting.”
City of Hoboken Spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri says, “Councilwoman Fisher can’t have it both ways—she requested the amendment, voted in favor of the amendment, and now turns around and criticizes that very same amendment. It is clear to anyone who read contract, that the six figure anticipated contributions to the City from the e-scooter companies are literally allocated for enforcement and safety—precisely what the Councilwoman requested. While she might be playing politics now, Mayor Bhalla appreciates her affirmative vote for his proposed agreement when it mattered.”
hMAG contacted Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante for specifics on the plans for enhanced enforcement.
“The money received from these scooter companies will not be going to the HPD,” says Ferrante. “We have our own enforcement and educations plans and strategies that we follow. Our enforcement cannot be revenue-driven and cannot come from private company givebacks.” He adds, “Director [Ryan] Sharp has a plan for enforcement coming from those monies that I am in agreement with and he will present for the September Council meeting, if not sooner.”
Sources have indicated that the enhanced enforcement will come from the Hoboken Parking Utility.
As for the infrastructural improvements, discussions are underway on the topic of Protected Bike Lanes.
“It is great to hear the City of Hoboken is allocating a portion of this additional e-scooter revenue toward protected bike lanes which provide the safe infrastructure that bicyclists and scooter riders need and want,” said Chris Adair, President of Bike Hoboken. “Giving people a safe, dedicated place to ride, minimizes injury and is a proven method to decreasing sidewalk riding.”
***UPDATE: Councilwoman Fisher responds to Spokesperson Chaudhuri’s comments:
“My focus has been on safety since day one unlike the petty politics of Vijay. If both ways means celebrating small victories while still advocating for the missing ‘comprehensive plan that ensures safety of Hoboken residents’ which was requested by a unanimous vote of the council, then I’m ok with that.”