Hundreds of people showed up for a town hall meeting on e-scooters. Four people have died in e-scooter accidents since May. Three were in Atlanta. The city is considering regulations that would limit the number of scooters. Officials at the meeting said the growing popularity of e-scooters had brought the city to a crossroads. “The thing that creates unsafe conditions is cars,” Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane said.

Hundreds attend scooter town hall meeting at Atlanta City Hall

Atlanta’s top planning official drew applause from hundreds of people on Monday when he blamed an over-reliance on cars for making the city’s streets unsafe.

“The thing that creates unsafe conditions is cars,” said Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane, speaking at a town hall meeting on e-scooters, the share-able rented electric powered devices since first appearing on city sidewalks in May 2018.

The meeting, held in city council chambers, was called after four people died in electric scooter accidents since May. One of those deaths occurred outside the city limits.

As complaints, injuries and e-scooter-related deaths have mounted, city officials have turned to various measures for help. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has issued executive orders prohibiting new permits and banning their use after 9 p.m.

A runner passes a group of e-scooters on the Beltline near Ponce City Market in Atlanta on Thursday August 22nd, 2019. He shares his thoughts on e-scooters. The Beltline started out prohibiting motorized vehicles. In January, the Atlanta City Council passed a law allowing for e-scooters to be used on the trails. Does this compromise the Beltline's purpose? (Photo by Phil Skinner)
Photo: Phil Skinner

The city is considering further regulations that would limit the number of scooters and how to create protected bike lanes with temporary barriers.

A number of officials in the room said that growing popularity of e-scooters had brought the city to a crossroads.

“Our streets are too dangerous,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Ide. “It’s tragic that it has taken people dying to get this point.”

Before the meeting, a group organized by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and PEDS, a pedestrian advocacy group, had distributed a flyer among attendees to call for reducing the speed limit to 25 mph across the city, connecting the city’s bike network and to make it a goal to eliminate all traffic fatalities.

To some extent, cyclists and pedestrian advocates see scooters as an ally in the fight to improve infrastructure and make navigating the city safer for everyone.

Keane also suggested that lowering speed limits would create safer conditions.

“A fast car in the city is a negative thing,” Keane said. “It’s a very bad thing.”

As for how to limit the number of scooters, Council President Felicia Moore said it would help if the city could count the number scooters deployed. Right now the city relies on data submitted by the e-scooters companies.

“I don’t think we have any way to physically count them or to get into their system to actually count them,” Moore said.

Moore said she counted 30 scooters on a single street corner on Monday.

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