In the aftermath of the city’s third electric scooter fatality, the Atlanta City Council on Monday introduced legislation that affirmed a prohibition on additional permits to the companies deploying the devices.
The proposal appears to be a stop gap measure and is unlikely to have any immediate effect on the number of scooters on city streets.
It comes as electric scooters have grown in popularity across the world, and cities struggle with regulating them. They have caught on as a easy method of travel in dense urban areas clogged with traffic.
Most often people ride them for distances deemed to short to drive but too far to walk.
The devices were first dropped off in Atlanta in May, 2018, and almost immediately pitted scooter riders and pedestrians against each other. The problems only worsened as the number of permitted companies grew the next year.
Currently, there are 9 companies permitted to deploy 12,000 scooters, although only about 5,500 have been deployed, according to city officials.
After another scooter-related death last week, a handful of people at Monday’s Atlanta City Council meeting urged council members to make city streets safer for scooter riders.
Bruce Hagen, a bike law attorney, said the city needs to consider allowing scooters and bikes to operate on sidewalks.
“There are times when it’s safer for folks to ride on sidewalks,” Hagen said. “It should be in the discretion of the person who is on a scooter or a bike.”
Last month, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order prohibiting new permits. The mayor said it would remain in effect until the council’s Monday meeting.
Bottoms also said she would propose legislation to “address the long-term impacts the devices levy against the City’s infrastructure and public safety” in advance of the meeting.
But the legislation proposed on simply allows the existing 1-year permits to expire at the end of the contracts and offers no suggested regulations.
Late Monday evening, Bottom’s promised again in a statement to introduce more comprehensive regulations.
“Given the serious effects these devices have on our infrastructure, public safety, and quality of life, the city cannot allow this rapidly growing industry to move faster than our ability to regulate it,” Bottoms said. “In the coming weeks, this administration will introduce a larger solution to keep our streets safe for all modes of transportation — including scooters, cars, bikes and wheelchairs — and ensure greater equity in mobility.”
Three deaths in four months
The city’s first scooter-related death occurred in May, when a 20-year-old man was struck by a Cadillac SUV as he left a MARTA station. The driver of the SUV, 36-year-old Narcory Wright, was faces misdemeanor charges of second-degree homicide by vehicle and speeding.
The next month, city police began warning riders that a new ordinance had banned scooters from the sidewalks. Fines for that infraction range up to $1,000, authorities said.
On July 17, a 37-year-old Atlanta man fell and was run over by a CobbLinc bus, police said. Bus riders heard the man banging on the side of the bus; he died as firefighters tried to extract him.
A few days later, protesters took to the streets demanding safer places to ride scooters and bicycles. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued the executive order July 25, prohibiting additional permits to scooter companies.
Two days later, Amber Ford was riding a scooter on 14th Street when she was struck by a car. Ford's husband, Justin, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he didn't see the collision but turned around when he heard his wife screaming to see her rolling in the street.
Witnesses told 911 operators that the car fled the scene. Police are searching for the driver.
Amber Ford, a mother of two, was taken of life support on Friday.
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