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Legislators return to the question of Spin scooters in Pittsburgh

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA

An effort to return Spin’s electric scooters to Pittsburgh is once again rolling through Harrisburg. The diminutive — and divisive — vehicles disappeared from city streets in July when the state legislature hit a budget impasse. Last week lawmakers revived negotiations, and with them, the possibility of the scooters’ return.

The Pennsylvania vehicle code usually disallows stand-on electric scooters, but in 2021 state officials approved them for a two-year trial program as part of a city-led initiative called MovePGH. The project grouped multiple modes of transportation — POGOH bikes, Scoobi ride-on scooters (which has since folded), ZipCar, ridesharing, and Spin — at hubs throughout the city; an app called Transit allowed people to see all the options as they planned their trips.

The electric scooter language approved by the state House of Representatives late last week would give Spin a one-year extension from the date of passage. Scooters would still only be permitted in Pittsburgh, and only under the auspices of a commercial company; in this case, Spin. A separate bill that aims to legalize scooters in other municipalities, and to authorize private ownership of the vehicles, is still in the works.

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Spin has encountered pushback in Pittsburgh. People complained about scooters blocking the sidewalk, and about dangerous riding habits. To curtail that behavior, the House legislation offers a series of fines the city can levy against users — and the company itself. However, transit and disability advocates say the scooters are a distraction, and that Pittsburgh needs to focus on improving basic mobility, by having better sidewalk connections, for example, and improving access to mass transit.

It is unclear when the state Senate will address the issue of scooters, which is part of a much larger bill. And Mayor Ed Gainey would have to issue an executive order before the scooters could return to city streets.

It seems likely the mayor would issue such an order. In July, in an announcement about the “indefinite pause” of Spin’s operations due to the state budget snarl, city officials said they would “continue to work with state legislators to reauthorize this critical mode of transportation.”