Atlanta Enacts Nighttime Electric Scooter Ban

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Posted by Pat Whittinghill on Tuesday, August 13th, 2019, 12:10 PM PERMALINK

This past week, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a ban on the use of electronic scooter and bike services within the city limits of Atlanta. The announcement comes on the heels of the fourth fatal incident involving scooters in the city. The ban establishes the city as a “No Ride” zone and will require providers like Lime, Bird, and Uber to make their scooters inaccessible between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. This most recent micromobility restriction follows a previously established moratorium on the issuance of new scooter permits. The limitation on use, however, is significantly less onerous than the Mayor’s original goal of a complete ban on the services.

The Mayor’s regulatory crackdown on the city’s newest form of transportation is misguided, regressive, and irresponsible.

Electric scooters have found their niche in providing “last mile transportation,” the gap between transportation hubs and one’s home, and by filling similar gaps in the current transportation infrastructure. These distances are generally too far to conveniently walk but are short enough to dissuade the use of a car. Additionally, scooters are less expensive than other ridesharing services such as Uber cars, which also provide commuters new choices in this space. At no cost to taxpayers, these services fill in last mile gaps while also expanding the number of neighborhoods that can be reached for a broader segment of urban communities.  Electric scooters help optimize existing public transportation systems by expanding the effective range of hubs, cut down on traffic congestion, and can significantly reduce overall carbon emissions by reducing the number of cars on the road.

 The benefits of scooters as a supplement to traditional means of urban transit are especially evident when considering their impact on low-income communities. These areas are often underserved in terms of access to public transportation and individuals residing in these areas are less likely to have steady access to a car. Scooters have managed to accommodate the residents of these areas in a way that traditional public transportation has not. To this end, a number of providers have also enacted programs designed to both reduce the price of use and guarantee access in these communities.

As an example, Bird, one of the largest providers in the city, waives their unlock fee for riders who qualify for federal or state aid programs such as Medicaid. Having a steady and inexpensive means of transportation is invaluable and scooters provide this to lower income areas. This expands access to job opportunities, healthcare, and public facilities like libraries and recreation centers.  The total sum of these factors translates to higher quality of life in these communities and a partial ban on scooters minimizes the benefits they provide.

It is clear that improvements can be made to reduce risks for electric scooter riders but a partial ban like Atlanta’s is unwarranted. Efforts are better focused on enforcement and education of safety provisions along with infrastructure improvements that recognize the changing transportation system desired by residents. We urge Mayor Bottoms to reverse the ban and work with providers and the community to find positive solutions to improve rider safety without limiting consumer choices.

Photo Credit: Neil Williamson

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