By DOTTY NIST
Walton County’s request for proposals (RFP) from companies interested in providing motorized scooter rentals in a pilot program was concluded on Jan. 25 with one company offering a proposal.
ANIV, Inc., based in Los Angeles, Calif., was the only company to respond, according to information provided by Kristen Shell, Walton County planning manager.
Applying to rentals of the stand-up electric scooters (e-scooters), the Walton County Motorized Scooter Pilot Share Program is envisioned for designated areas of the county as set out in the RFP.
The Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) had approved proceeding with the pilot program in September 2021, after previously having a moratorium in place on e-scooter rentals for some time and legal counsel having advised the commissioners that they would not be able to extend the moratorium further.
The program is aimed at regulating scooter rentals in order to avoid problems that have occurred with them in other areas. Due to state statutes in Florida, an outright e-scooter rental ban is not possible, and the devices are generally allowed by law in areas where bicycles are permitted.
The length of the RFP document for the scooter rental pilot program was 82 pages, including more than a dozen pages of county requirements for operation of motorized scooters.
Among the program requirements are hours of operation (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.), local staff to resolve issues and develop solutions to improve program performance, fleet size (50 scooters initially), education of riders, and parking requirements/prohibition of leaving scooters on right-of-ways, sidewalks, or streets.
Scooter riders are to be prohibited from riding on travel lanes of U.S. 98, U.S. 331, or CR-30A, except to cross those roads. No scooter rentals are to be allowed to anyone under age 18.
A $20,000-a-year annual fee is to be required from any operator selected to provide scooter rentals.
Offenses for program operators who violate program requirements may result in fines ranging from $250 per scooter for first offense to $1,000 per scooter if there are successive offenses—and revocation of the company’s ability to participate in the program may result from more than six offenses over a 12-month period.
For scooter riders, fines for violations range from $20 for the first offense to $60 and freezing of the rider’s scooter rental account for the third offense.
Included with the RFP document is a map showing “deployment areas” where scooter rentals are to be allowed in north, north central, south central, and south Walton County. Areas where scooter rentals are to be restricted consist of seven neighborhood plan areas, the Beach Highland, Grayton Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Gulf Pines, Gulf Trace, Inlet Beach, and Point Washington neighborhood plan areas.
ANIV, Inc.’s proposal references partnerships with local, international and state agencies and also private companies in the public transportation field. Among areas of operation cited by the company are Israel, Armenia, New Zealand, and Egypt, along with Jacksonville, NC, and Tampa, Fla., in the U.S.
ANIV, Inc.’s proposal specifies the use of ANIV GPS-enabled electric scooters with top speed of 15-19 miles per hour. These scooters’ larger 10-inch wheels and double brakes are noted.
The proposal features a locally-trained operation management team that, it is stated, would stay abreast of scooter maintenance needs through artificial intelligence and user input and ensure needed repairs to vehicles. The proposal emphasizes proper parking of scooters at parking station locations and includes rider instruction on parking so that vehicles do not block paths, entrances, exits, etc. Safety is also highlighted, with free helmets to be featured along with a requirement for new users to watch a “How to Ride” tutorial.
Shell said the county’s selection committee for the pilot program would be meeting on Feb. 7 to review the company’s proposal. Discussion on the proposal by the BCC is envisioned as part of the Feb. 15 meeting agenda, and it is anticipated that the commissioners would make a decision on Feb. 22 as to whether to award a bid for the operation of the pilot program for a one-year period.