The Journal Gazette
Sunday, October 06, 2019 1:00 am

New scooters must follow rules of road

DAVE GONG | For The Journal Gazette

Oh my, they're everywhere.

As in other cities, about 300 electric foot scooters can be found zipping around Fort Wayne at all hours, day and night. Although the scooters sure look like fun, they're utterly nerve-wracking whenever I drive past someone riding one on the street. 

The scooters are operated by VeoRide, which also has about 150 bicycles throughout the city. But mostly, we just see the scooters. They're parked on sidewalks, against lampposts, outside bars, restaurants and other establishments. At any given time downtown – except for at Headwaters Park and Promenade Park – you can see groups of people enjoying this convenient and entertaining mode of transportation. The city asked VeoRide to disallow use in the two downtown parks to avoid conflicts with pedestrians.

VeoRide, which began operating Sept. 6, has also placed 10% of the scooters in areas of the city that are lacking mobility options.

The city is evaluating the service through a pilot program approved by the Fort Wayne City Council in April. The ordinance gives the city the authority to remove any scooters improperly parked in the right of way, which includes streets, alleys, sidewalks, highways or any other public space. It also sets out a fine for the owners, should a scooter be used improperly or parked in the right of way or in a public space. 

The scooters are a novel idea, as long as people are safe while using them.

On its website, VeoRide strongly encourages the use of a helmet and recommends riders use the scooters in bike lanes where available, traveling in the same direction as vehicle traffic. Anyone 13 or older can ride a scooter, but renters must be over 18 years old. Renters use the VeoRide mobile app to locate a scooter. The scooters cost $1 to unlock and an additional $0.15 per minute to ride. Payment is taken through the app. 

Capt. Scott Berning, of the Fort Wayne Police Department's Special Operations Group, said scooters ridden in the street must abide by the same state laws bicycle riders are expected to follow. That includes obeying traffic lights and signals, as well as signage. State law does allow electric scooters to park on sidewalks, as long as they don't impede normal pedestrian or vehicle traffic. 

Scooters ridden on the sidewalk fall under the Fort Wayne City Code, Berning said. As with bicycles, scooters should yield right of way to pedestrians, especially when emerging from an alley, driveway or building. This applies to sidewalks, too. 

Given the number of scooters spotted outside local bars and other establishments that serve alcohol, it's worth noting that anyone found riding one while intoxicated could be charged with an OWI.

“This would be the same charge that is used when someone is intoxicated and operates a 'vehicle' such as a mower, ATV, buggy, etc.,” Berning said. 

Safety advice Berning provided for people considering trying a scooter includes:

• Wear a protective helmet

• Be cognizant of your surroundings

• Obey all traffic laws

• Remember that pedestrians have the right of way

• Use caution near doorways and where car doors could open suddenly

• Use extreme caution when it's raining or the pavement is wet

• Watch for debris, potholes, water grates, curbs, etc. that could cause a spill

• Always leave the scooter parked in a safe place that will not obstruct pedestrian traffic

• Only one rider per scooter

• Never ride while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Whitley County traffic study

The Indiana Department of Transportation has completed a traffic study for U.S. 33 at Blue Lake Road in Whitley County, something it pledged to do in June after a resident sent a letter asking for help reducing crashes at the intersection northwest of Churubusco.

The study included a traffic count, review of crash history, a field check to observe sight lines and existing signage, INDOT spokeswoman Nichole Hacha-Thomas said in September. 

Based on the study results, INDOT is not planning to widen U.S. 33 to include a left turn lane or passing blister, which is an outcropping in the pavement designed to allow traffic to go around a car that is waiting to make a left turn, Hacha-Thomas said.

The decision was based on several factors, she said, including that the number of vehicles turning left off of U.S. 33 onto Blue Lake Road is relatively low. 

“The traffic count took place in July on Friday and Saturday during good weather. At that time, we did not observe left turn volumes on U.S. 33 that exceed our standards for left turn lane or passing blister consideration,” Hacha-Thomas said. “The crash data for the past 4.5 years showed very few crashes (three I believe) that could have possibly been prevented with the installation of a passing blister or left turn lane.” 

Hacha-Thomas also said the field check found sufficient sight distance in both directions at the intersection for a driver to recognize that the vehicle or vehicles in front of the driver are slowing down to turn left. 

But INDOT will install a “Side Road” warning sign with a “Blue Lake Road” supplemental plaque for northbound traffic approaching the intersection.

“The signs will increase driver awareness of the intersection and the possibility of vehicles turning onto/from Blue Lake Road,” Hacha-Thomas said. “These signs will be installed by late October, if not sooner.” 

Reader Questions

Q. Why, oh why, is I-69 still not done with construction? I travel this daily to and from work and there is always a dangerous slow down between mile marker 309 to 305 and all there are on the road are orange barrels blocking a lane down to two lanes. No one is working. Why are these still there? This is dangerous both south and northbound. I-69 must have three working lanes all the time especially in rush hour traffic. – Michelle H.

 A. Commuters using Interstate 69 are going to have to be patient. The barrels are in place for the Hillegas Road bridge project over I-69, INDOT spokeswoman Nichole Hacha-Thomas said. That project won't be complete until next month. The lanes are restricted, she said, so work can take place above the highway on the bridge without compromising safety to the drivers below. Additionally, traffic flow was switched Thursday from the driving lane closed to the passing lane closed to facilitate painting of the middle of the bridge. 

Road Sage is a monthly column. Dave Gong, The Journal Gazette's local government reporter, provides updates on public works projects in the Fort Wayne area. Submit a question by emailing or tweeting @JGRoadSage.

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