St. Louis officials ban scooters in an attempt to curb mayhem downtown
Three teenagers were shot in downtown St. Louis at the beginning of June, offering a stark reminder of the challenges city officials have faced in bringing order to the neighborhood.
Downtown's problems aren't new, but the tension has only increased in the past two years.
The coronavirus pandemic left downtown with far fewer workers — and into the vacuum came visitors loudly drag racing, partying and brawling. Residents have been outspoken about their unhappiness with the situation, but a long-term fix has proved elusive.
In yet another attempt to deal with the issue — or, at the very least, reduce the chaos on downtown streets — the city recently banned electric scooters downtown.
“I realize that is a two-edged sword, because a lot of our visitors are tourists whom we rely on to enjoy all that downtown St. Louis has to offer — the scooters are quite an amenity for them,” 5th Ward Alderman James Page told St. Louis on the Air. “But when the scooters are abused, we had to study the situation closely and take action.”
The ban had a positive effect over the past weekend, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and downtown business owners Page met with Monday.
“We had fewer groups of juveniles gathering and hanging out downtown,” Page said. “We had very little violence in downtown.”
The executive director of the Saint Louis Downtown Neighborhood Association also credited police officers working 12-hour shifts in downtown and downtown west. And the St. Louis Sheriff's Department maintained a visual presence throughout the weekend. “We're providing more eyes and ears and officers in place, as well as cutting out the scooters,” he said.
The scooter ban will not be permanent, Page added. He’s optimistic that city officials can gather data from the ban to use toward a long-term solution for downtown.
“It is intended to be like a two-week or thereabout ban,” he said. “Then we can take measured steps to possibly bring them back. But that's going to take some study.”
In the meantime, Page encouraged those without vehicles to check out STL Downtown Link, which is a micro-transit pilot program designed to enhance connectivity in the downtown corridor. The City of St. Louis launched STL Downtown Link in coordination with Labyrinth Smart Mobility in March. The pilot will run until the end of 2022.
“People can hail a ride on a zero emission electric shuttle in the downtown area and in the north of downtown into 63106, [which is] part of the fabulous Fifth Ward,” he said. That's an example of American Rescue Plan funding "being put to good use," Page added.
The shuttles run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
During Monday’s conversation, Page also addressed the idea of an earlier curfew (curfews for juveniles in the city are 11:59 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the week), the overall state of downtown St. Louis and what he envisions for the future of the St. Louis Board of Alderman in the wake of recent indictments and resignations.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.