D.C. may ban overnight rides on shared electric scooters

By Andrew Giambrone posted July 2n, 2019 on dc.curbed.com

Local lawmakers are considering comprehensive regulations for the devices

Bird scooters on K Street NW (2019)
 The Washington Post/Getty Images

A recently proposed bill may put the breaks on the steady growth of electric scooters in the District. As introduced, the bill would prohibit people from riding shared electric scooters between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. each night and compel scooter companies to remove illegally parked scooters—including those blocking sidewalks, driveways, and handicap-accessible ramps—within three hours of hearing any complaints via newly required 24-hour hotlines.

It would also cap the total number of shared electric scooters permitted in the city sans D.C. Council approval to 15,000. And it would enact speed limits for electric scooters, based on whether they are being used on the road or the sidewalk: 15 mph in the former case (this is above the current 10 mph speed limit under a city pilot program) and 6 mph in the latter. A variety of other provisions are involved in the legislation, such as fines following consistent complaints and a mandate for firms to provide their scooters across the city by 6 a.m. daily.

Shared electric bikes would also be regulated under the bill. Electric-bike providers would have to offer their bikes across the city too, and the speed limit for them would be 20 mph.

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who chairs the Council’s committee on transportation and the environment, floated the bill. (Ward 1’s Brianne Nadeau, Ward 2’s Jack Evans, and Ward 6’s Charles Allen were co-introducers.) Describing it as “comprehensive,” she said it was “an attempt to regulate … electric-scooter and -bike operations” in D.C. As committee chair, she can decide when to hold a public hearing on the proposal and how to advance it.

“The bill … aims to strengthen the rules that we have, and to add others, as well as ensuring that electric scooter and bike companies do their part to keep the streets and sidewalks safe for all individuals,” Cheh said during the Council’s meeting on June 25. She said the devices have benefits, like helping to reduce congestion and giving people affordable transportation options, but also costs: they can obstruct public rights of way and lead to pedestrian injuries.

D.C. has allowed shared electric scooters and bikes on city streets since 2017, with roughly 5,000 devices now permitted. More could be on the way, as District transportation officials are considering giving out additional permits for providers of so-called “dockless vehicles.”

Cheh’s legislation received early criticism on social media, with several commenters noting that the city should promote alternative forms of mobility and that it does not regulate cars stringently enough. But in a series of tweets later on, Cheh suggested she is open to changes.

Mary M. Cheh

@marycheh

Electric scooters and bicycles produce multiple benefits for the District: reducing congestion and our carbon footprint, plus they’re fun for users. However, with these benefits have come significant challenges.

See Mary M. Cheh’s other Tweets

Mary M. Cheh

@marycheh

This technology is relatively new and we don’t have a safe electric scooter culture—users often weave around pedestrians at high speeds, don’t follow safety rules, ride while inebriated, and discard scooters in pedestrian walkways, private driveways, & handicap accessible ramps.

20 people are talking about this

Mary M. Cheh

@marycheh

I’d like to share the main components of the bill that I hope will address some of those problems. First, the bill will require DDOT to clearly mark (with signage and/or ground markings) the boundaries of the Central Business District.

See Mary M. Cheh’s other Tweets

Mary M. Cheh

@marycheh

It is not fair to tell riders not to be on the sidewalk in the CBD without letting them know exactly where that boundary is. The bill will also require scooter operators to provide DDOT with their fleet, trip, and complaint data.

See Mary M. Cheh’s other Tweets

Mary M. Cheh

@marycheh

The bill also establishes a pilot to create electric scooter exclusive parking locations. The speed limit for E-bikes will be raised to 20 mph while on the street.

See Mary M. Cheh’s other Tweets

Mary M. Cheh

@marycheh

And yes, the bill proposes to ban scooter use between 10pm and 4am in an effort to increase safety and reduce the risk of inebriated use. Based on today’s feedback, I expect to receive a lot of testimony on that particular provision.

39 people are talking about this

Mary M. Cheh

@marycheh

There is more listed in the bill than I was able to cover here, and it is important to remember that an introduction is just the beginning of the conversation for what the final bill will be, most bills change (and improve) after the hearing process. (end)

See Mary M. Cheh’s other Tweets

Another councilmember who co-introduced Cheh’s bill, Charles Allen, tweeted that he does not support the proposed overnight ban on e-scooters, but favors “several other” provisions.

Scott Elias@ScottySolar

@charlesallen please help kill the night time ban on using scooters

Charles Allen

@charlesallen

I don’t support the overnight restriction, but there are several other elements in the bill I support. Improves equity in access across the city, creates expansion based on metrics, establishes some dedicated parking areas, & more. Looking forward to a hearing!

See Charles Allen’s other Tweets

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the District’s congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, wrote in a June 25 letter to the head of the U.S. Capitol Police that the vehicles should be allowed on the Capitol Grounds via “narrowly tailored regulations to protect public safety.”

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