Electric Scooter Problem – How should cities regulate these vehicles

As time passes we see that there’s an emphasis on eco-friendliness and greenhouse gas emissions. All over the world, we see governments trying to stop the production of highly polluting cars. The majority of people are trying to be environmentally-friendly, sustainable, and efficient. Thus, an electric scooter is one of the main choices for numerous people. Researchers have concluded that electric scooters will get you around the city whilst reducing fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emissions.

They are battery-operated and can reach a speed of 15 mph. The latest models can last up to 20 miles on a single charge. Arguably, it has been claimed that southern states are not big fans of these. This is due to the fact that the heat, hilly terrain, and under-developed infrastructure have gotten in the way. Nonetheless, states such as California, Miami, and Florida prefer this type of transportation.

Electric Scooters and The City

The main problem that the government officials’ have put forward is the fact that the companies that make these, have put it forward to the public without asking for the official’s permission. The counter-argument given by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was that the permits didn’t exist by the time the companies have the scooters for sale. In short, there were no specific local guidelines at that time.

There have been cases where the City has put thorough regulations through. For example, in Austin, Texas, Bird and LimeBike have taken the electric scooters off the market as the Emergency Ordinance has passed. The ordinance has stated that:

  • No person may place, store, park their electric scooters for the purpose of selling, rent or leasing the item
  • No person shall allow another person to place, store, or park for the purpose of selling, renting or leasing the scooter
  • City workers would begin impounding scooters supplied by companies operating without a license

In addition to this, the spokesman for the electric scooter company Bird has stood strong against the idea of asking for permission. He suggested that asking for permission from government entities before offering products and services to the public, is inconsistent with the system of law and enterprise in America. Thus, if a rental company complies with all of the laws and regulations of every city and state they are in, they should be allowed to provide the public with the scooters.

Furthermore, the city’s Transportation Department plans to charge companies up to $30 for each scooter or bike they put on the street. The fee covers only half a year. This can be another problem they companies would face. This is because the scooters are usually rented for $1 per mile, plus an additional fee in some instances. Regardless, that can amount up to 15 cents per minute. Therefore, some people would pay less than a Starbucks coffee.

Competition or Regulations?

The rental program called JUMP have reportedly created confusion around the permit regulations which rental companies would need to comply. Thus, numerous companies have launched without proper permits. This in turn led to many of them getting closed down. This also happened to one of the companies called LimeBike. Thus, the Transportation Department in San Francisco has selected JUMP as the only company to receive a permit to operate dockless bikes in the city.

This infuriated the other competitors and a lot of discussions and confusion took place among the city departments and advocacy groups. Whilst at the same time, other rental companies have dived right in and launched without any ‘permission or consent’. Thus, it was impossible for the smaller businesses without a lot of cash to spend, to get properly started.

As the months passed, only three electric scooter rental companies have survived. The data given by The Bird has claimed that more than 32,000 people have used their e-scooter service and have collectively traveled up to 143,00 miles. Therefore, making it even harder for new companies to catch up to these numbers.

Safety and Regulations

Once the confusion passes, it’s clear to see that the city officials and e-scooter companies can get along and get on the same page. In fact, all three companies have argues that they are willing to apply for the proper permits, once they become available. These are some of the regulations the city is thoroughly looking into implementing:

Helmets

In states such as California, you are required to wear a helmet by the law when operating the machine. Nonetheless, the majority of people do not take the law seriously. In fact, around 10% of people wear them. This is a big concern especially because San Francisco has more than 400,000 cars registered. In Nashville, Tennessee, two women were seriously injured by a hit-and-run whilst riding the scooters. Neither of the women was wearing helmets. The only solution to this would be for the City’s officials to make people pay a considerable fine if they catch them without a helmet.

Parking

Numerous people have complained that the scooters are being parked and left on sidewalks or in front of doorways. Thus, companies such as Bird implemented a program where the rider is required to send a picture of their scooter after they have parked. This is then viewed by an operator that ensures it was parked in a proper spot.

Solutions

  • A proposed pilot program has been carefully considered by officials and is currently up to debate whether it should be implemented. These are some of its features:
  • Each company would have to pay a $5,000 application fee. As well as, show how it plans to ensure its scooters are parked and used safely according to the law
  • Limit the number of scooters on the street at any given time to 2,500. Thus, issuing 5 permits with a limit of 500 scooters per permit

Each business would have to provide user insurance for each of the scooters. As well as education on how to use it safely. Also, they are required to share trip data with the City. Of course, the data has to be encrypted and protected to ensure user privacy.

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