A man rides a Bird Scooter on Georgia Tech's campus in Atlanta.
Photo: ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Athens mulls law banning electric scooters as hundreds are impounded

Athens is close to banning those notorious electric scooters — at least for now.

An ordinance filed in Athens-Clarke County last week would put a moratorium on the dockless devices, requiring Bird to remove the scooters until stronger regulations are in the books.

“It's such a problem now, we just need to stop it. We need to end it,” Commissioner Jerry NeSmith said of the scooters.

The devices can be located through an app, are propelled by an engine and can then be left anywhere for the next user to pick up.

NeSmith, the chair of the Legislative Review Committee, told AJC.com that the commission would take a year at most to come up with rules for how the scooters would operate, before accepting proposals from scooter operating companies like Bird and Lime.

Bird scooters popped up around Athens in August, shortly after they emerged on the streets of Atlanta. The University of Georgia quickly banned the scooters from their Athens campus, and has been impounding devices they come across.

READ MORE: Your next ride? Atlanta scooter rivals scramble for turf

The school has impounded nearly 1,100 Birds, with fines and storage fees mounting to $445,345, UGA spokesman Greg Trevor said. 

Trevor said Bird did not consult with UGA before the scooters came to campus. He said they do not comply with the university’s rules that vehicles cannot be parked in an “illegal or unsafe manner.” The scooters will be released once Bird pays the fines, he said.

“For the university, the primary concern is safety — safety for those riding the scooters and for bystanders who might be hit by them or whose path might be impeded by an abandoned scooter,” Trevor said.

A Bird spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the legislation.

Students walk around Bird scooters near the bicycle rack at Georgia Tech's campus in Atlanta. (Photo: ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Lime, the other major scooter operator, has a large presence in Atlanta but has not expanded to Athens.

“It’s unfortunate when the bad actions of one rogue operator limits mobility options for an entire community,” said Todd O’Boyle, Lime’s development director for the Southeast. “In the future, we hope Athens will consider working with operators that have a proven track record in partnering with cities to develop solutions that provide residents with safe, convenient, affordable, and viable transportation options.”

The Athens legislation comes at a time when communities around the country are reckoning with the new transportation devices and coming up with their own laws to regulate them.

In Atlanta, the City Council is mulling legislation that would regulate where the scooters can ride and park, and potentially cut down on the number of scooters allowed on city streets.

RELATED: Atlanta eyes regulation of booming electric scooter business

The Athens legislation, which was discussed at a commission meeting Tuesday night, would give Bird 10 days to collect their scooters, at risk of impoundment. 

It is expected to be voted on by the commission at a Dec. 4 meeting; NeSmith said he expects it to easily pass.

Over the last few months, the scooters have “rapidly proliferated in an unregulated environment,” the ordinance states, “without adequate safeguards for the individual users or the greater community.”

´╗┐Related:

The e-scooters are a cheap, quick way to get around short distances.

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