E-scooters in Franklin? Not so fast, say city leaders

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E-scooter map

A map showing Cool Springs in grey as an area where scooters could be deemed suitable.

Electric scooters have made headlines in cities across the U.S. over the past year, including Nashville and Brentwood, which banned them in September. 

Now, the discussion has zoomed to Franklin.

At Tuesday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session, elected officials and citizens discussed the merits and drawbacks of a pilot program allowing e-scooters in Franklin.

Part of the presentation involved a map showing Cool Springs in grey as an area where scooters could be deemed suitable: from Moores Lane, along the traffic-laden Mallory Lane, and south, ending at Liberty Pike.

From the get-go, City Administrator Eric Stuckey made it clear downtown Franklin would not be part of the district to allow motorized scooters. 

Holland Schellhase, a city management fellow, gave a presentation outlining what a scooter program would need to be successful.

She said the main safety concerns are motor vehicle accidents when the scooter rider is not wearing a helmet. Proper infrastructure, like bike lanes and multi-use trails, as well as docking stations, would contribute to the safety of the program. 

While there are plenty of sidewalks in Cool Springs, bike lanes are uncommon.

Ward 1 Alderman Bev Burger, a member of the sustainability commission, championed the scooter program. 

“Everything you know that is wrong about scooters, throw it out the window, because that's not what I would want here in our town,” she said.

In traffic-congested Cool Springs, Burger said she’s spent time talking to people about why they take their cars to lunch. 

The answer? An hour-long lunch break doesn’t give many people time to walk to lunch, though she said they were open to different modes of transportation, like a long-proposed circulator bus or a shared scooter or bike program.

She also pointed out the program would be limited to the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with GPS tracking that would disallow riders from taking the scooters outside of the intended district.

“We’ve learned from our neighbors,” she said, pointing to Nashville, where a scooter rider died from a motor vehicle collision in the spring. “We know what we don’t want to do.”

Some city aldermen were not convinced.

“I think we are probably spinning our wheels on this,” At-Large Alderman Clyde Barnhill said, summing up a sentiment shared by the rest of the board. 

“This strikes me as a cure worse than the condition,” Ward 2 Alderman and Vice Mayor Dana McLendon said. He also said everyone who reached out to him was against it. 

At-large Alderman Brandy Blanton said she was concerned about the safety issues, and she would rather focus on creating a circulator program through the TMA Group, which operates the city’s public transportation system.

“I think people are opposed to what they don’t know,” Burger argued. “I would expect all seven, eight of us on this board to go to work and find other alternatives, because I represent a ward that is bogged down in traffic every single day, and I’m just tired of it.”

Given the board’s failure to support the pilot program, Stuckey said it would not move forward.

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