By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4) – After being slapped in the head by a stranger, for legally riding a scooter on the sidewalk, a Denver man is sharing his story. Eric Lazzari says he’s in favor of efforts to change the laws, from moving scooters from sidewalks to streets.
Since the scooters came to Denver, he’s enjoyed using them but has felt they were more suited to bike lanes.
“Honestly, right now, that feels like the safest place to ride them. In the protected bike lanes, and we don’t have a ton of those downtown so maybe we need to have a few more of those, or call them something different,” said Lazzari.
Lazzari is well aware, Denver bikers need more bike lanes before scooters can join in, but with the growing popularity of the scooters, he’s one of many looking to move off the sidewalks.
Currently, with the exception of the 16th Street Mall and parks, sidewalks are the only places you can legally ride the stand-up scooters in Denver.
Lazzari recently found out first-hand how upset scooters on sidewalks have made some people.
“It never crossed my mind that he was going to… hit me when I started what I thought was going to be a conversation about where these belong.”
Toward the end of August, Lazzari, stopped at a crosswalk on his scooter, was confronted by an angry stranger.
“This gentleman came up to me and as I was stopped said, ‘those belong in the street,’ and I’m like, ‘no, actually they belong on the sidewalk.'”
Lazzari was caught off guard.
“It was a gentleman probably of my age, walking his dog in downtown Denver, and so I never would have anticipated that he would end up hitting me because he didn’t think the scooters should be on the sidewalk.”
While he assumed he might be getting into a small debate, the gentleman told him verbatim, “I’m going to teach you a lesson” and promptly hit him in the back of his head.
“Honestly I was… I just stood there in shock and actually my first reaction was to take out my cell phone and try to take a picture of him, but he got a little bit even more nasty then, so I put my phone away and walked away from the situation,” said Lazzari, still baffled by the incident.
He called Denver Police who responded quickly. Lazzari said he didn’t want to press charges. He simply advised them to teach him about the laws if they caught up to him.
Lazzari will still use the scooters, he says they’re the most efficient way to get around downtown without showing up to work sweaty. He is not alone.
“People like the scooters. People like getting from one end of downtown to the other via bike, via scooter, via foot and so maybe we need to make sure our streets are designed for that.”
It’s an issue the City of Denver is painfully aware of, but in order to change the laws within the city, the laws within the state need to change as well and scooter needs vary widely.
Lazzari believes it should start with more lanes that aren’t specific to just bikes.
Denver City Councilwoman , Mary Beth Susman has a few ideas of her own, but says it’s ultimately up to the city and the state to work together to make the changes.
In a statement Tuessday, City Councilwoman Susman said,
The problem with scooters is they’re in that not so sweet spot, too fast for sidewalks, too slow for streets. What we really need are ABC lanes, Anything but Cars, that accommodate scooters, bikes, peds, wheel chairs, skateboards, and any other kind of future devices coming our way- with their own lanes and signage.
Denver Public Works (DPW) says it has been actively working toward making changes. It was clear that the process is difficult. What works for the city, doesn’t always work for the rest of the state. Changes as early as December would be very optimistic, according to DPW but it’s possible, it says the conversations around the issues are ongoing.
DPW provided a statement Tuesday,
Denver Public Works is exploring all of our options around electric scooters – from looking at different ways to categorize them (currently, they’re classified as “toy vehicles”) to seeing if we’ll need to propose an ordinance change to allow electric scooters to operate in the bike lanes. DPW continues to work on this process, however, it’s going to take time. Until then, we ask users to watch their speeds and always yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.