- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2019

The D.C. Council is considering how to regulate the city’s ever-growing electric scooter industry as alternative transportation for the District’s motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and public transit riders.

The council’s Transportation and Environment Committee held a hearing Monday on the future of dockless scooters, whose reckless use and haphazard parking on sidewalks by some riders have become a bane for many residents.

“Every complaint that I get about a scooter, I could also probably point to the exact same complaint I get about someone who’s on a bike, someone who’s driving a car or even somebody who is on foot,” said Council member Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat.

“I will most certainly be thinking about all users because we have to create a sense of safety and talk about the behavior for everybody,” he said.

Committee Chair Mary Cheh summarized the benefits of electric scooters and battery-assisted bicycles, such as reducing congestion and the city’s carbon footprint, as well as providing visitors and commuters an inexpensive and efficient option for transportation.

“However, with these benefits come costs,” said Ms. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat. “We have an established bike culture in the District, but because this technology is relatively new, we don’t yet have a safe electric scooter culture, resulting in many users neglecting to follow important safety rules.”

According to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), eight companies — Bird, Bolt, Jump, Lime, Lift, Razor, Skip and Spin — currently are operating a total of 6,210 dockless electric scooters in the city.

A proposed set of new rules would require scooter users to provide a valid photo identification before each use and set speed limits of 15 mph on a street or bike lane and 6 mph on a sidewalk.

The proposed rules also would require scooter companies to secure a permit for operations, put speedometers on the vehicles, report complaint data to DDOT and maintain 10% of their fleet in each ward by 6 a.m. each day. Companies also would have to establish a free, 24-hour hotline for the public to report inoperable or illegally parked scooters.

Representatives of the city’s nightlife industry testified that scooters are an important, affordable way for workers and customers to get home at night when public transit options aren’t operating.

Ms. Cheh said she received similar feedback before the hearing, which prompted her to suggest ending a ban on overnight scooter use.

Brooke Finland, whose 8-year-old son was struck by a Lime scooter on a sidewalk, recommended requiring a driver’s license for scooters and banning scooters on sidewalks and in school zones.

Lime, Spin, Lyft, Bird and Skip representatives testified about how they promote safety among customers such not putting scooters in school zones, requiring new customers to go through a safety guide, offering free and discounted helmets, and requiring people to take a picture of where they parked their scooter.

Ms. Cheh pointed out that customers can skip through the safety guide on their phones, as she pressed the operators on how they keep track of unsafe riders.

DDOT Director Jeff Marootian said his agency is working with the companies to make scooter use safe and is creating 40 more designated spots or “parking corrals” for scooters so that they don’t create a safety hazard in the middle of a sidewalk.

Mr. Marootian also recommended one speed limit for scooters, saying that DDOT is “not confident” in the operators’ technology to detect sidewalks and that speedometers would be one more thing to distract riders’ attention from the road in front of them.

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