Cite as: Riley Bearden, St. Louis, MO, in University of South Carolina School of Law, Dockless Mobility: A Look into the Regulation of E-scooters, https://docklessmobility.org/case-studies/st-louis-mo/ (last updated 2019).
The city of St. Louis has started a dockless bike/scooter share permit program following years of research and study by the city. A bike share feasibility study and implementation plan was produced in 2014 and continued in 2017. The plan shifted with the advent of the dockless system as opposed to the station-based system.
St. Louis started evaluating bike/scooter share programs because it wanted to provide its citizens with the “convenience and flexibility of a private vehicle with the accessibility and reliability of mass transit.” The city explains on its website that it sees downtown commuters, tourists, and college students using these to get to their final destinations, decreasing the number of cars on the road and improving congestion and air quality. They highlight the first mile/last mile issue and note that it will ideally get local residents outside and make them more active.
The Bike/Scooter Share Permit Program identifies the following eleven goals:
St. Louis is already equipped with some of the infrastructure adaptations required for the implementation and proper use of E-scooters and motorized bikes as a part of a shared dockless mobility system. They have designated bike lanes and ordinances that address both the use of motorized bikes (St. Louis, Missouri Code of Ordinances Sec. 17.18.010 – 17.18.080) and motorized scooters (St. Louis, Missouri Code of Ordinances Sec. 17.37.010 – 17.37.080). They have chosen to regulate the operators via permitting provisions.
The Permit Program
The city of St. Louis has a permit program that regulates how companies operate within the community and seeks to ensure that it is widely accessible. Ofo and LimeBike have applied for permits. Both brought 750 units to St. Louis in April of 2018 to launch them and is allowed to bring up to 350 units each per month until they hit the 2,500 unit cap. The permit requires that companies must have cash payment options and 20% of the units must be in neighborhoods that would benefit from affordable transportation alternatives.
The vendors are solely responsible for the maintenance of the stations, bicycles and other elements of the Bike Share system. The units must have a locking mechanism and have a maximum motor-assist speed of 15mph. Helmets are encouraged and users are required to follow the rules of the road when they ride in the road. All bike/scooter share operators must have 24-hour phone numbers clearly indicated on units so users can request assistance and report maintenance issues.
St. Louis’s Feasibility Study asked whether St. Louis was ready for a bike/scooter share system and how it would be implemented. They surveyed their citizens to see who would use the bike/scooter share program and 63% of respondents said that they would be likely to use the bike/scooter share program. They presented a proposed service area and a strategy for phasing in the program. They wanted to ensure that the bike/scooter share program would not be a cost burden on the city but instead generate a revenue that the city can use.
St. Louis now has Bird and Lime scooters with a structure for growing based on the use of the scooters. Scooter companies can bring scooters in up to the 2,500 cap and then present the information to the city
St. Louis places a priority on social equity and engagement in communities that will benefit from affordable transportation. They clearly present the benefits of dockless mobility and explain to companies and users how the dockless mobility blends into the existing transportation infrastructure. St. Louis has thoughtfully approached the bike/scooter share feasibility for their city, considering whether it would be a good fit for their city, and then how best to implement it.