E-scooter

Manhattan city commissioners approved the use of e-scooters like this one.

People won’t be allowed to ride electric scooters on sidewalks in Aggieville and downtown, according to an ordinance passed Tuesday by Manhattan city commissioners.

The ordinance defines the rules for using electric scooters (e-scooters) and other micromobility devices such as electric bicycles, electric skateboards and hoverboards.

The ordinance the commission approved prohibits riding these devices on sidewalks or plaza areas in downtown Manhattan and Aggieville. The ordinance does not allow the devices in city-owned parking garages or lots.

People can ride them on sidewalks elsewhere in town as long as they yield to pedestrians. They can also ride them on the streets; the rules are the same as they are for bicycles.

The commission addressed this issue after the Kansas Legislature amended the state’s traffic ordinance this year to include e-scooter usage.

Gina Scroggs, executive director of Downtown Manhattan, wondered how the city will enforce the regulations.

She said there are “common occurrences” of bikes colliding with pedestrians on sidewalks when leaving stores.

“We have signs on all of our corners,” she said. “People just continue to use their wheels on the sidewalks.”

Scroggs said business owners can self-police, but they rely on ordinances and enforcement.

“Nobody’s totally against this,” Scroggs said. “It’s just how is this going to be regulated? How are these things going to be enforced? Are we going to remain the walking district that we’ve worked so hard to become?”

The ordinance passed by the commission doesn’t affect the K-State campus, but university officials spoke about using the city’s policy to guide their own.

Linda Cook, chief of staff and director of community relations at Kansas State University, spoke on behalf of the university, stating that she already sees e-scooters and e-skateboards on campus.

“So they’re coming. And it’s an attraction for young people,” Cook said. “And maybe some not so young people. We have some faculty that want this as well.”

Cook acknowledged that the devices are environmentally friendly.

“But it does help with that short trip when you don’t have parking places,” Cook said. “It’s an environmentally efficient type of device to get around the one-mile trip that you need to make.”

Cook also raised concerns about safety and parking on campus.

“But where we are, and we want to get behind this, and work with the city, allow them on campus, but we want to work out the ordinances or regulations that we would have on campus that would really focus on pedestrian and rider safety, particularly head injuries,” Cook said.

The Associated Press reported in June that there have been at least 11 e-scooter deaths in the United States since 2018.

Cook said the university needs to provide the correct parking for the devices, which depends on the specific company, she said. She said the university does not want electric devices in congested areas of campus, and also wants to regulate speeds.

She also stated the university will not enter into any contracts with any of the device companies, and let the city do that work.

K-State Student Body President Jansen Penny said a survey was recently sent out to students, and 75% of the 400 respondents supported implementation of a policy. He said 16% were indifferent to the idea.

He said over 50% of respondents said they would use an e-scooter multiple times a week.

Commissioner Usha Reddi expressed interest in gathering feedback from other universities and cities that have implemented electric device policies to learn from their experiences.

In other action Tuesday, commissioners:

  • Adopted the state’s Standard Traffic Ordinance. This ordinance maintains that traffic regulations are the same across Kansas, no matter what city a person is in.

Wes Garrison, assistant city attorney, said the Riley County Police Department and other city departments reviewed the ordinance. No entities expressed negative feedback about the ordinance, Garrison said.

  • Approved adding a construction manager at-risk to work with the Aggieville parking garage. This position assists with streamlining the building process with all entities, said Jason Hilgers, deputy city manager.

In order to select a person to fill that position, commissioner Wynn Butler is serving on the selection committee.

Hilgers said the public can discuss the garage at a meeting planned for the third week of October. Officials haven’t determined a date and location for the meeting.