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E-scooter rentals could come to Hempstead in pilot program

An electronic scooter like the ones Hemsptead Town

An electronic scooter like the ones Hemsptead Town is considering for a pilot program.  Credit: Getty Images/Mario Tama

A top speed of 15 mph — enforced by technology inside the electronic scooter. A ban on parked e-scooters blocking the sidewalk. The ability to remotely lock down a wayward e-scooter.

Those are some of the terms required by Hempstead, which has been considering since the summer testing out a rentable e-scooter program for the town, if the state legalizes them.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, citing safety, on Thursday vetoed legislation permitting electronic scooters and electronic bikes. His administration later said he would announce new legislation Jan. 8 to allow the devices, although apparently with tighter restrictions.  

Rentable e-scooter programs — in which users with smart phones can unlock and rent the two-wheeled, battery-powered vehicles — have expanded across the United States and around the world.  

In such programs, the e-scooters are scattered strategically on streets and elsewhere and left for the next rider when a trip is completed.  Some municipalities across the state, such as Rochester, are also eyeing greenlighting e-scooter rentals.

If Hempstead goes through with a pilot e-scooter program, it would be the first municipality on Long Island to do so, according to Russell Murphy, a spokesman for Lime, an e-scooter and e-bike company operating across the country. Murphy, who is familiar with proposals on the Island, said only Hempstead has formally solicited proposals for an e-scooter rental program, though other local municipalities and colleges have expressed interest.

Outgoing Hempstead supervisor Laura Gillen, whose administration solicited the proposals, said in an interview earlier this month that e-scooters are worth a pilot program because they are environmentally friendly, appeal to young people who don’t want the hassle of an automobile, and make commuting easier.

“You can check out a scooter using an app, and then you just leave it where it is, and you e-check it back out," Gillen said, "and so it’s a very cheap way for people to get around without worrying about really parking, which is a huge nightmare for people, especially people going to the train station.”

In July, two companies, San Francisco-based Spin, and Slidr of Boca Raton, Florida,  answered Hempstead's solicitation.  

Both propose charging users $1 to unlock the e-scooter and 15 cents per minute, with accommodations for low-income users and those without smartphones.

Slidr's proposal, which doesn't provide specific locations, includes about 100 scooters and offers the town   $50 per scooter and 15 cents per ride. Spin proposed a $300 license fee and 10 cents per ride to the town.  The company's proposal suggests deploying the devices first to the north-center part of Hempstead Town — roughly bounded by Garden City, Rockville Centre, Freeport, Uniondale and Roosevelt — and other parts of the town in a second phase.

In November, Gillen lost reelection, and her successor, Don Clavin, has not decided whether he would support an e-scooter rental program for the town, according to his spokesman, Mike Caputo.

“Supervisor-elect Don Clavin embraces forms of transportation that are environmentally friendly and reduce our carbon footprint, but also believes that safety is paramount,” Caputo wrote in an email. “Once he assumes the role as supervisor, Don will review and consider all bids, contracts and proposals from the previous administration.”

Both companies would use GPS technology to enforce rules devised with the town.

"Spin, in collaboration with the Town, can also designate areas where a scooter will gradually (safely) power down where scooters are strictly prohibited,” its proposal said. And "[f]or habitually bad parkers, we employ warnings and even restrictions.”

Slidr would use technology to enforce areas known as a “No-Zone."

"An example of a No-Zone might be ADA areas, parking spots, fire hydrants, and any other areas," its proposal said, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Slidr didn't immediately return a call for comment. Ashley Brown, Spin's government partnerships manager for the East Coast, said early Monday night she was about to board a plane and could not immediately comment.

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