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Princeton’s town council formalizes town ban on scooters amid safety concerns

scooter outside a brown door with leaves around it.
Rebecca Cunningham / The Daily Princetonian

The debate over whether electric scooters should be allowed, familiar on campus, is continuing beyond FitzRandolph Gate.

During its meeting on Dec. 18, 2023, Princeton’s town council passed an ordinance formally prohibiting people from riding scooters on sidewalks in the “Central Business District.” This includes a stretch of Nassau Street from Bayard Lane to Maple Street, a stretch of Witherspoon Street from Nassau Street to Paul Robeson Place, and the Palmer Square area. The ordinance is an amendment of a previous one that banned people from “riding a bicycle, operat[ing] or rid[ing] a skateboard or roller skat[ing]” in the same area. With the amendment, the ordinance now prohibits people from “operat[ing] or rid[ing] a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or roller skates.”


The council unanimously passed the ordinance, with Councilmember Eve Niedergang noting that it is part of an effort to address Personal Electric Vehicles (PEVs) in the coming year. Niedergang told the ‘Prince’ that she isn’t sure what that effort looks like yet. It comes after the University’s recently-announced ban of scooters on campus.

“In our constituents, we have one group with a lot of parents with young children who feel like the streets are unsafe — which is true in you know, in some cases — and they want their kids to be able to ride on the sidewalk. And some adults also want to be able to ride on the sidewalk,” Niedergang told the ‘Prince.’ “On the other hand, with the advent of e-bikes, the bikes are heavier, they’re going faster and pedestrians are frightened of that. So, we have to figure out a way forward.”

Sidewalks affected by the ordinance
Photo Courtesy of the Municipality of Princeton

A public records request shows multiple citations were issued by Princeton Police for riding scooters citing the previous ordinance, though Assistant Municipal Engineer Jim Purcell noted to the ‘Prince’ that scooters were not originally part of the ordinance.

“The prior ordinance did not include a definition of scooter and therefore did not regulate them,” Purcell wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’


However, in an interview this March, Councilmember David Cohen directed the ‘Prince’ to the Municipality of Princeton Borough Code when asked to clarify whether the old regulatory measures applied to scooters. The code defines “skateboard” as a “device having two or more wheels on which a person can stand with one foot or two feet and can propel himself forward with one foot or move downgrade by force of gravity.”

“Scooters and Segways clearly fall under this definition,” Cohen said.

Municipal attorney Trishka Cecil did not respond to multiple requests for clarification as to whether or not tickets for riding scooters were valid before the adoption of the new amendments.

A public records request shows that police have reported 170 violations of the original ordinance since it was adopted on Nov. 28, 2022. Of the violations, nearly all resulted in warnings, and just four resulted in tickets — $50 each. Three of the tickets were given to Princeton students for riding scooters on sidewalks, all on March 6, 2023 between 12:22 and 12:46 p.m. The fourth ticket was issued to a Princeton resident for riding a bicycle on April 1, 2023. No tickets have been issued since.

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Two of the students who received tickets expressed their frustrations to the ‘Prince.’ Their main concerns included the lack of signage at the time, and what they saw as arbitrary policing in giving them a ticket as opposed to others riding their scooters on the sidewalk that day.

“I have been riding up and down this street all school year and this is the first time this has been asked of me,” Shameek Hargrave ’24 wrote to the ‘Prince.’ He told the ‘Prince’ that the officer initially gave him a warning, but “as soon as I reached the other side I hopped back on my scooter and tried to continue on to class, but the officer was watching me and decided to chase me down. He ran across the street to hop into his police SUV, blared his sirens to the max volume, and pulled into oncoming traffic to confront me.”

Ishaan Baghat ’26 told the ‘Prince’ about his similar experience, where he had received no warning.

“I was like, ‘Well, I never knew this. There’s no signs anywhere. I’ve never known that it’s not allowed because I would see people doing it all the time.’ Even during the interaction, I saw a couple of people who were riding bikes or scooters and nothing happened to them,” Baghat told the ‘Prince.’ 

“I just felt like [the officer] was being a bit unreasonable. It was midterm week, and I was pretty stressed out, and he kept me there for like, 40 minutes to pay for a ticket for riding a scooter for five seconds when I didn’t even know it wasn’t allowed. So it was kind of annoying, but then after that, I just paid the ticket and moved on,” Bhagat continued.

Princeton Police Captain Christopher Tash told the ‘Prince’ that he is not at liberty to discuss why officers give tickets, or the dropoff of tickets since April.

“In regards to these tickets, I don’t know how the officer interpreted that part of the ordinance,” Capt. Tash told the ‘Prince.’ “It’s impossible for me to speak to whichever officer, what they wrote, or what they interpreted to be part of that ordinance.”

Charlie Roth is a head Data editor and senior News writer for The Daily Princetonian.

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