The Hoboken City Council unanimously approved a measure that will ban E-Scooters on the waterfront and in parks in light of an incident where a woman and her infant were hit by a scooter last week.
On the evening of September 11th, Kate Cohen was walking her three-month old baby Theo in a stroller before they were struck by a 13-year-old riding an OjO scooter.
The incident did not result in any serious injuries, though the city announced they were ending their agreement with OjO less than 24 hours later.
While clearly frustrated at times, Cohen took a measured tone when addressing the council last night, stating off the bat she wasn’t seeking an E-scooter ban, but better enforcement and a high priority for pedestrian safety.
“Before I tell you why I’m here, I want to tell you why I am not here. I am not here to call for a ban for motorized scooters. I think scooters have the opportunity to serve as a viable, alternative form of transportation in Hoboken and cities around the world,” she said.
Cohen continued that she was very fortunate the scooter her the right side of her stroller, which was empty at the time, despite often being occupied by her two-year-old son, Elliot.
“Every time I put Elliot in place, I wonder what his life would be like if he had been crippled in that accident,” she added, noting that OjO scooters weigh about 65 pounds and could cause serious injuries to any unsuspecting person on the sidewalk.
Another public speaker was Shalini Menon, a blind sophomore student at the Stevens Institute of Technology who said that she has no longer been able to travel the campus on her own since the E-scooter pilot programs were approved in the spring.
“Until the beginning of this semester, I was able to leave my apartment and walk to Stevens independently. But this fall, things really changed … being blind, I use a cane when I walk and so the cane clears the area in front of me and I use that to feel if there are any obstacles in the way,” she began.
“But the scooters, when they’re parked, they’re narrow on the bottom and the handlebars stick out on the top. And so when I wave my cane in front of me to walk, the cane will not find the scooters before I do and so I have gotten hit twice and fallen down twice.”
Also in attendance was OjO CEO Max Smith, who expressed regret over the accident involving Cohen, saying it was “not unreasonable” for the city to suspend their contract.
However, he said it should be a group effort to improve E-scooter usage in Hoboken, also calling for clarity on why their contract was cancelled without any heads up.
“We believe that the importance of taking a step back to continue improving our service must be weighed alongside the obvious benefits of ensuring a future for docked scooter accessibility in a city where there exists a clear and rapidly growing demand for that
service among residents and workers,” Smith exclaimed,
“Additionally, we believe it is important for the mayoral administration in Hoboken to clarify what prompted its recent course of action – which occurred without prior discussion with our team – so there can be a clearer criteria set regarding any issues with or questions regarding our service.”
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who sponsored the ordinance, said she amended the legislation to include local parks out of safety concerns for local youth.
“Along the way, we kind of discovered, or I discovered, that these scooters are not banned in our parks – which is shocking to me. I walk through Church Square Park and every time I see a four-year-old that is a foot away from the bike path, with scooters on bike paths, you just think that’s a disaster waiting to happen.”
Councilmen Mike DeFusco, Peter Cunningham, Ruben Ramos and Mike Russo all expressed dissatisfaction with the current status of the six-month pilot program, which expires on November 20th.
While each elected official said they would like to take the winter to reevaluate the program and see if it will be viable for the spring of 2020, Cunningham and Russo said outright that they would not re-up the program as it is right now.
“I think there’s a lot of questions here and, quite honestly, when we started this I was absolutely supportive of both programs and asked them to convince us that they could do this,” began Russo.
” … That has changed drastically. They now need to show me, like from Missouri, the show me state: show me you can do it. Because honestly, there’s no way that I can vote to continue this pilot program, or permanent program, if we don’t address things.”
The measure unanimously, 9-0, after a little over an hour of public comment.