Howell could become the first community in Livingston County to add electric scooters to its transportation landscape, but will a long-time ban on wheels in downtown Howell — including skateboards, inline skates and bicycles — throw up a roadblock?
A handful of Segway scooters suddenly appeared in downtown Howell this week, and just as suddenly they were removed. Apparently, the scooter vendor with whom the city has been working “jumped the gun,” according to Howell City Manager Erv Suida.
“We are looking at this seriously, but we still have a lot to work out,” Suida said. “We’ve been discussing (scooters) over the past month, and we have to make sure all the businesses and boards know.”
And then there’s that downtown Howell ban on wheels.
The ban — prompted after Howell pedestrians complained about feeling frightened and intimidated by skateboarders downtown — was controversial when it was adopted in 1999. At that time, the council grappled with which wheels should be banned. Some members favored banning skateboards and bicycles, but not inline skates; others had other ideas on what should be banned; in the end, all wheels were banished.
Apparently, the city is either not considering scooters among the banned “wheels,” or if it does, it will then have to amend the ordinance.
Either way, Suida said he is “excited” about the prospect of scooters in Howell and seeing what benefit they can bring to residents and merchants.
“Can you imagine if Cleary University got on board?” Suida said, adding that students would be able to get to downtown Howell easily and economically to shop and eat and enjoy themselves.
“We are in the initial exploration phase regarding scooters,” said Kate Litwin, director and COO of Howell Downtown. “City staff is looking at any ordinance changes that would be required to implement a program safely and effectively.”
The pilot scooter program with a vendor named Ship@Bay will likely get underway soon, Suida said, and the scooters will reappear downtown most likely after Halloween.
Ship@Bay — which has been a scooter vendor for two years — is co-owned by Sherry Garlanger, a former Livingston County resident.
Garlanger has lived in various locations in Livingston County, including Howell, Pinckney, and Fowlerville; she currently lives in Alpena, which is also her hometown.
Alpena is also home to a Ship@Bay scooter project. You can read about that by clicking here.
In addition to Alpena, Garlanger, who co-owns the business with Jesse Muszynski, said Ship@Bay’s Michigan scooter placements include Sault Ste. Marie and Mackinac City, adding that Grand Haven is coming on board soon. She said her company also has scooters in Florida.
“I like to put the scooters where the businesses are,” Garlanger said. “I am very choosy on placement, and I like to partner with businesses because it’s such an attraction, and it brings people to the business.”
The electric scooters — which operate via an app — are controlled by Ship@Bay, which uses geofencing to keep the scooters in a certain area, controls the speed at which they can be operated, and requires the uses of helmets. Once established in a municipality, the scooters are available for rent spring, summer and fall.
This 2018 piece on Vox gives a comprehensive look at electric scooter programs in the U.S.
You can read Ship@Bay’s flyer here:BPLAN-Flyer