City Quotient: Electric Scooters Blaze a New Trail in Columbus

Plus, the origins of Urbancrest’s name

Jeff Darbee
A man rides a scooter at the river front.

We have a lot of great hiking and biking trails in Columbus, but I was wondering about electric bikes and scooters. Are they allowed on these trails?  

New technologies have their pluses and minuses, so they have to be regulated to some extent. City code addresses electric bikes and scooters. (Columbus is revising its code to mirror state law.) Ohio has rules for state hiking trails, Metro Parks has its own rules, and Columbus Recreation and Parks prohibits “motorized vehicles.” Electric scooters are not allowed on city hiking/biking paths or along the Scioto Mile (though this rule is often ignored when it comes to the latter). But pedal-assisted bikes are OK because they are not considered “motorized” and also are allowed on trails statewide. 

Related:Columbus bans e-scooters on High Street in Short North, citing safety concerns

Note that if it doesn’t have pedals, it’s a prohibited motorized vehicle. For disabled people, electric “chair” scooters are exempt, as long as the user truly needs a “personal assistive mobility device.” Then there is the issue of how electric bikes and scooters are used. Scooters are regulated the same as bicycles under the city code, and bicycles are treated the same as automobiles. So: Don’t run red lights or stop signs, and don’t ride on sidewalks. Do signal lane changes, obey speed limits and yield to pedestrians. 

Further, scooters and bikes may not be parked in a way that interferes with pedestrian or vehicular traffic. 

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Near Grove City, there’s a small suburban community called Urbancrest. A name like that makes it sound like a development project from the 1950s. What’s its history?  

Urbancrest is suburban, all right, but not from the 1950s. It’s between downtown Grove City and the south leg of the Outerbelt on land formerly in the Virginia Military District. In 1890, just under 100 acres here were platted as a village for William H. Whetstone. 

According to a local history, the community’s name means “city on a hill” due to its location on the highest point between the Scioto and Miami rivers. From its earliest days, Urbancrest attracted Black residents, both those working locally on farms and others coming north from the South. Many residents are descendants of people who came in the Great Migration after World War I. Though the original village plan showed streets and alleys, it would be a long time before there was anything but rough paths between houses and businesses. As late as the 1940s, Urbancrest lacked not only paved streets but also public water and sewer service. This changed after incorporation of the community as a village in June 1948. 

Even so, it was only in the 1960s that residents gained needed services. Although Urbancrest eventually grew to just under 250 acres, a much-enlarged Grove City entirely surrounds the village today and provides its public services. All around the community are large warehouses and industrial buildings, but Urbancrest itself remains a tree-shaded and comfortable home for its residents. And it has the honor, according to the census—and only Urbancrest can make this claim—of being the 10,351st largest community in the United States. 

Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to cityquotient@columbusmonthly.com, and the answer might appear in a future column. 

Sources: Columbus Department of Public Safety; Urbancrest Reunion, 1976; “A Concise History of Columbus, Ohio and Franklin County, 2009”; 1996 Urbancrest Homecoming Program; worldpopulationreview.com 

This story is from the September 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.