Cracking down on e-scooter lawbreakers

Council introduces fine increases

Fines for electric scooter law violators could increase after council moves to amend ordinance.
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Fines for electric scooter law violators could increase after council moves to amend ordinance.

To help get a grip on electric scooter violations, the Hoboken City Council has introduced an ordinance amendment that would increase fines for those caught breaking the rules.

Hoboken became the first city in the state to roll out an e-scooter pilot program with 250 Lime electric scooters and 50 Ojo electric scooters available to rent in a six-month pilot program launched last month.

The program gives the city the ability to test electric scooter sharing and study how it impacts the overall transportation network.

Hoboken’s scooter-share program has gotten off to a rough start with more than 1,500 questions, comments, and complaints on social media sent to Police Chief Ken Ferrante on the first day.

Lieutenant John Petrosino who heads the police department’s Traffic Bureau reported that since its roll-out, the police department has had 4,100 calls for service. About 2.5 percent were e-scooter related.

Of those, most were violators going the wrong way down a one-way street or those who were riding on sidewalks, which is against city law.

He said in the first week officers stopped several people, giving them warnings. Most listened and corrected their behavior.

He said the traffic bureau received roughly 241 email complaints in the first 15 days about the scooters, all of which were forwarded to Lime and Ojo, and “I am responding to as many as I can,” Petrosino said.

The first 14 days saw roughly 45,000 rides by roughly 17,000 unique riders.

“That’s about one email complaint for every 186 rides or one email complaint for about every 76 riders,” Petrosino said. “So about 10 percent of people are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.”

The Traffic Bureau is seeing a lot of emails from the same people seeing the same violations.

Petrosino reported that there have been a few citations written so far and some “hit and run accidents we are currently investigating,” including a scooter which ran into someone’s parked car.

So far there have been no serious injuries reported.

New fines and rules 

The council’s introduced ordinance, which will require a second vote at the next council meeting, specified fines for those who violate certain laws.

Violators are already subject to a $100 fine in municipal court, but if the offense is for riding on a sidewalk, failing to obey traffic control devices, riding in any direction other than the direction permitted for vehicular traffic, or riding on a scooter with another person, the penalty for the first offense will be $20. On a second offense the fine increases to $100, and if they violate the laws a third time the fine is $500.

If they commit an offense for a fourth time, the individual will be suspended for a period of one year from any city-sponsored ride share program.

The ordinance also prohibits scooters from being operated within public parks unless they are being operated on a bicycle path or roadway through the park.

If it is necessary to cross through the park to reach an e-scooter parking location, users must dismount and walk the scooter to the destination.

Petrosino said that those who are caught driving an electric scooter while under the influence can be charged with reckless driving and a DWI.

To help curtail this, the police department met with representatives of Lime and Ojo, who agreed to adjust their hours of operation.

Now the electric scooters can only be used Sunday through Wednesday until 11 p.m., Thursday until 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m.

Electric scooter complaints can be reported to the police department at Traffic@hobokenpd.org as well as to the electric scooter providers with time and location of the incident. For Lime support@li.me. For OJO OjOHobokenCS@gmail.com.

For more information on the laws on e-scooters read our May 22 story Rules of the Road at hudsonreporter.com.

For updates on this and other stories keep checking www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.