CHARLOTTE, N.C. — People who are blind or in wheelchairs are struggling to use sidewalks in many of Charlotte's busiest neighborhoods because they're blocked by electric scooters.
Disability rights advocates are now pushing the city to step in before taxpayers end up paying for a lawsuit.
Blocking sidewalks is illegal.
Even though you can be cited for it, disability rights advocates say the city isn’t really enforcing the law.
Melanie Dunston said she struggles to move her wheelchair around all of the electric scooters scattered across her neighborhood.
She told Channel 9, “To be in a wheelchair is already hard but when there are scooters blocking areas it's really difficult. I have to have someone help me around the scooter and that just blocks all independence for myself, so it's very difficult."
She was part of a discussion Thursday morning with disability rights advocates.
They met with representatives from the city to drill down on how Charlotte is addressing complaints.
They want to make sure 311 operators know how to handle calls and CMPD knows how to respond to them.
Disability rights advocate Marty Musser said, "It has been an ongoing issue since the scooters came to Charlotte."
In January, city councilmembers passed an ordinance saying scooters parked on sidewalks must leave a 6-foot pathway or they need to be parked on the greenspace beside the sidwalk.
In many cases, that's not happening and Musser says it’s because the city isn’t enforcing its own rules.
"It does get a bit frustrating when they make our sidwalks accesible and then let things like e-scooters become barriers," she said.
Musser says if this doesn’t get fixed, eventually someone could sue and they may not just going to sue scooter companies, they could also come after the city of Charlotte and its taxpayers.
Similar cases are already happening in cities like San Diego.
To solve the problem, disability advocates are now pushing the city to have workers make sure sidwalkers are clear.
They also say the city could start impounding scooters if the companies are warned about violations but don't move the scooters.
Channel 9 asked the city of Charlotte what it will change to enforce the laws more effectively.
They said they look forward to working with the community to address concerns about scooter sidewalk obstructions.
CITY OF CHARLOTTE RESPONSE:
"We look forward to continuing to work with the community to address concerns about scooter sidewalk obstructions. We encourage the community to contact the scooter vendors directly if there is a scooter blocking a sidewalk so that the vendor can address the concern. Community members can also call 311, although the best way to report a scooter sidewalk obstruction is to contact the vendors directly. Contact information for the vendors with photos of the scooter companies can be found here."
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