Cities grap­ple with reg­u­lat­ing e-scoot­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAN BOY­LAN

In San Diego over the July 4th week­end, po­lice handed out nearly 100 ci­ta­tions to elec­tric scooter users, while a TV broad­cast of a man rid­ing one with an in­fant in a baby car­rier strapped onto him sparked out­rage.

Across the coun­try, cities are grap­pling with the in­creas­ing num­ber of e-scooter shar­ing pro­grams and the reg­u­la­tory chal­lenges posed by the ve­hi­cles.

“First off, they need to learn to slow down when they’re on the side­walk,” said Tye Ship­man, a tourist in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where nearly 1 in 6 res­i­dents used e-scoot­ers in the past year, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent poll.

Mr. Ship­man had been walk­ing nearby the Capi­tol when a herd of e-scoot­ers forced him to step aside quickly.

D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Mary M. Cheh de­scribed the scene as “a lit­tle bit like the Wild West” when she in­tro­duced a pro­posal to ad­dress a host of e-scooter com­plaints in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal late last month.

D.C. law­mak­ers now are con­sid­er­ing reg­u­la­tions on where the ve­hi­cles can be parked, their speed limit and how late they can be used.

Ur­ban trans­porta­tion ex­perts say Wash­ing­ton is just one of the many cities caught up in the “mi­cro­mo­bil­ity rev­o­lu­tion,” which pro­motes shared tran­sit over car own­er­ship.

Last year, Amer­i­cans took about 38.5 mil­lion trips on shared e-scoot­ers, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of City Trans­porta­tion Of­fi­cials.

Bat­tery-pow­ered scoot­ers have been around for years, but only re­cently have they been equipped with GPS track­ers and wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity.

GPS al­lows users to rent them for roughly 15 cents per minute after down­load­ing an app, then leave them any­where at the end of a ride — in­stead of re­turn­ing them to des­ig­nated lo­ca­tions, or docks.

Driv­ing the growth are Sil­i­con Val­ley dar­lings — Bird and Lime, star­tups that have raised $418 mil­lion and $467 mil­lion from in­vestors, re­spec­tively. To­gether the firms have had more than 22 mil­lion rid­ers in roughly two years of ser­vice.

Other ma­jor e-scooter com­pa­nies in­clude Jump and Lyft, which are owned by the ride-hail­ing firms Uber and Lyft.

Op­po­nents of the move­ment say th­ese firms have dumped thou­sands of ve­hi­cles on city streets with­out proper per­mits and no warn­ing.

Last year Los An­ge­les is­sued a cease­and-de­sist let­ter to Bird after it launched op­er­a­tions be­fore the city had fi­nal­ized reg­u­la­tions for the ve­hi­cles. Since then, L.A. has ap­proved a city­wide dock­less ve­hi­cle pi­lot pro­gram.

In a le­gal bat­tle with Santa Mon­ica, Cal­i­for­nia, Bird had to pay $300,000 in fines and other fees.

In the Mid­west, Wis­con­sin Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill to reg­u­late e-scoot­ers, cap­ping their weight at less than 100 pounds and speed limit at 15 mph.

The de­bate over their safety con­tin­ues. Ear­lier this year, the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia-Los An­ge­les re­leased the first com­pre­hen­sive study track­ing a year of in­juries from e-scooter use in two area hos­pi­tals. It re­ported that only 4.4% of rid­ers said they wore a hel­met.

Since the be­gin­ning of 2018, at least 11 e-scooter rider deaths have been re­ported across the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Sup­port­ers of e-scoot­ers in­sist they are safe. They counter that cars kill more than 40,000 peo­ple a year, while another 5,000 lose their lives on mo­tor­cy­cles.

Mean­while, Chicago has just started a four-month e-scooter pi­lot pro­gram.

That news prompted The Chicago Sun Times editorial board to re­mind Chicagoans: “Rid­ers, mind your man­ners and park your scooter prop­erly after a ride. That means up­right and par­al­lel to the side­walk and street, or in a bike rack.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cities are try­ing to reg­u­late us­age of elec­tric scoot­ers.

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