The Future of Electric Scooters

The future of electric scooters in the City of Atlanta, and around the country, is getting complicated. While there is much to recommend the motorized two-wheelers – less dependence on cars and zero internal combustion engine pollution — among other benefits, the ambiguity of where they belong while in use has become an issue.

Some riders feel vulnerable using public thoroughfares and steer onto the sidewalks — a decision that makes some auto drivers happier. However, pedestrians see scooters as nuisances. Many feel they are dangerous as unsuspecting walkers can be at risk with so many on scooters who may, or may not, have the judgement and skill to safely share the path.

In Atlanta, along the increasingly popular Atlanta Beltline, the Eastside Trail between Monroe Drive and DeKalb Avenue, has been designated as a reduced speed zone for scooters. Using a technology called geofencing, the top speed scooters in that area can achieve is slowed to 8 mph. This comes on the heels of the recent ad campaign advising scooter riders around Atlanta:

“Don’t be a knucklehead.”

An additional challenge is the explosive growth of scooter use in cities seems to have caught lawmakers flat-footed, so to speak. In an effort to catch up cities are trying to get a grip on how to handle scooters:

  • San Francisco, CA has issued a stern and specific list of regulations — covering where riders can operate and park their vehicles, among others — to company officials, compelling them to be an active part of the solutions.
  • Police in Omaha, NE are aggressively ticketing riders for rolling on the sidewalk.
  • Officials in St. Louis, MO proactively confiscate scooters unless the operating company is fully vetted and licensed.
  • Decatur, GA issued an ordinance banning their use within city limits.
  • St. Petersburg, FL will be taking the matter up soon.

Unlike cars and motorcycles (and sometimes bicycles), there is no uniform national standard as to the age of the rider, helmet requirements, speeds, etc. It is legislation on the fly.

The day following a powerful citizen protest on West Peachtree Street, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms took the immediate action of halting any further permits to e-scooter companies. Whether this will make a difference or is merely a misguided, knee jerk response, the fact is that she is the one person who is in the best position to help improve conditions for people who ride bikes, walk on sidewalks, use e-scooters and LIT transportation in our city.