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Cincinnati's e-scooter curfew extended to 9 p.m.

Four black electric scooters parked in front of a short concrete wall.
Bill Rinehart
Bird e-scooters sit outside the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

You can now ride e-scooters until 9 p.m. in Cincinnati, after four months with a 6 p.m. curfew. City officials say the companies Bird and Lime have made a lot of progress on the safety concerns that prompted the curfew in April. The city even threatened an all-out ban.

Director of Transportation and Engineering John Brazina updated Cincinnati Council, Tuesday.

“Our idea is to implement the change to 9 p.m. and then evaluate it for 60 days,” Brazina said. “That will get us through the month of August and into September, [and] all the schools will be back in session as well. If the stats stay baseline, where they're at today, then our plan is to move it after 60 days back to the 11 p.m. [curfew].”

Lime officials say their business was nearly cut in half when the 6 p.m. curfew started in April.

The City Manager’s office and Cincinnati Police Department cited concerns about underage riders, unsafe riding on the sidewalks, and scooters being used to commit crimes. Both scooter companies have developed a discipline system for riders breaking the rules.

“We've done enough education and now it's time to actually implement consequences for those who continue to lean into the problems,” said Lee Foley, Lime’s director of Community and Government Relations in the Midwest. “They become the spoiled apples of the program. It's not all 800,000 trips that are problems, but there are just a handful. We want to make sure that we can target them with precision.”

Lime’s discipline program is currently in place; Bird’s system hasn’t started yet but will likely start soon after more consultation with the city.

Both issue fines ranging from $5 to $25 for unsafe behavior and users can be permanently banned after several warnings. And some things, like riding with someone under age 18, gets a user immediately banned. The companies will share the information with each other so if someone is banned on Bird, they can also be removed from Lime.

Underage Riders

Chris Stockwell from Bird says there’s been a big drop in underage riders since the company banned Cashapp as a payment method. He says Cashapp was one way users without a bank account could access the service.

“There are still plenty of avenues to get gift cards … appropriately,” Stockwell said. “You can go to Target and grab a $25 gift card and you can still implement it into our program. We haven't found that those individuals are the ones that are the bad actors on the vehicles.”

Both companies are also using “enhanced ID scan” to verify a rider’s identity. It’s long been a requirement to upload a scan of a valid photo ID; now, users also have to take a selfie in the app before each ride, confirming the person riding matches the photo ID on record.

Riding with a minor or unlocking a scooter for a minor to ride alone results in an immediate ban. So far this year, Bird has banned 80 users in Cincinnati.

Sidewalk Riding

Bird and Lime have launched safety education programming within the app; they include information about not riding on the sidewalks.

Lime scooter riders get a notification at the end of their trip: “We noticed you spent more than a little time on the sidewalk during this last trip. To be considerate to others, please ride on the street in the future.”

Bird scooters are geofenced to prevent riding on a sidewalk at all. If a user moves onto a sidewalk, a screen on the scooter will light up with a message to leave the sidewalk. A warning signal will also play from the scooter. If the scooter is not removed from the sidewalk after a few moments, the scooter will slow down until stopping altogether.

Lime has the same technology but has not implemented it, citing safety concerns about scooters coming to a stop in an intersection.

Scooter Parking

City officials say scooters have often been left in the middle of sidewalks or other areas that create hazards for pedestrians.

Bird is enforcing mandatory parking in parts of the Central Business District, Over-the-Rhine, and the Riverfront. Users are unable to end a ride outside of designated parking areas, and must take a photo of the parked scooter to prove compliance.

Lime representatives said they are also willing to implement mandatory parking for scooters. Some other cities have used painted squares or other visual symbols for scooter parking; others have used a space of on-street parking for scooters.

See the full presentation from Lime below, followed by the full presentation from Bird.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.