This may be a niche topic, but electric scooters were in the headlines last week in Atlanta. The Atlanta City Council passed new regulations on the scooters, adding both some structure and complication to this easy and unilateral mode of transport.
Pending Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ signature on the ordinance, riders will now no longer be able to ride on sidewalks or go above 15 mph. They also have to limit per-scooter-ridership to one person and cannot use cellular devices while operating the scooters.
Scooter companies like Bird, Lime, and JUMP will also have to pay at least $12,000 per year in permit fees to the city. No one should be surprised that the city wants a cut of this burgeoning industry.
The most disruptive part of the new set of rules is the requirement for scooters to stay off of pedestrian sidewalks. They can still use bike lanes and multi-use paths like the BeltLine. But forcing riders without helmets to putter along the side of the road, right next to traffic, and without helmets seems like a recipe for injuries.
Riders partially have themselves to thank for this.
There have been quite a few complaints about inconsiderate scooter riders putting those on foot in danger by zooming close by or running into them. This sounds similar to skiers’ complaints about snowboarders doing just the same on the slopes (guilty). A speed disparity and a recklessness create the need for separate lanes.
This newest transportation fad sees riders in a layer between cyclists and walkers. They can go quite a bit faster than pedestrians, but not as fast as bicycles. So Atlanta has moved scooters to the few bicycle lanes the city has. But cyclists are more committed to their longer trips and can go faster than the flippant, on-off scooter riders. That coexistence just doesn’t seem smooth.
Scooter-riders, this ordinance should be a wake up call about an aspect of this technology that you love. The most charming part about scooting is how disposable using one can be. But you need to start treating scooter-riding as you would driving a car. You need to be considerate of those around you (on the roads and sidewalks). And you need to be extra-alert, as your foot-shuffling will now be often in shared lanes with automobiles.
The city ordinance didn’t address the problem of scooters being left in random places all over. If users continue to leave their small, rented rides haphazardly on sidewalks, rules on that are sure to follow.
The new Atlanta electric scooter rules seem to mean well and should help keep pedestrians safer. But with scooters now closer to traffic and with riders not wearing helmets, there could be some major problems. Another transportation mode is well entrenched among us - heads-up.
Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.