Opinion: Facilitating scooter growth while managing safety

Scooters sit on a trailer, ready for distribution along the Atlanta Beltline and in Piedmont Park on July 18, 2019. Christina Matacotta/Christina.Matacotta@ajc.com

Scooters sit on a trailer, ready for distribution along the Atlanta Beltline and in Piedmont Park on July 18, 2019. Christina Matacotta/Christina.Matacotta@ajc.com

Following in the steps other cities have taken, the city of Atlanta has enacted a night-time ban of scooters and E-bikes in response to several tragic accidents in recent months, many occurring past sunset on our busy streets.

Through an abundance of caution, we have decided to eliminate the temptation to use scooters during times of lowest visibility.

Scooter companies legally permitted to operate in Atlanta deploy nearly 5,500 devices each day. They have all agreed to disable their equipment between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.

This night-time ban, along with our moratorium on permitting new scooter providers, are part of a comprehensive review the city is conducting on this popular form of transportation, which is having a significant impact on our infrastructure, public safety and quality of life.

Currently, the city of Atlanta has no plans to ban scooters entirely. But we do need to pause and determine how to regulate this new industry in a thoughtful and broader way.

We believe that a variety of mobility options enhances any major city: The more choices, the better. We are committed to finding solutions that will allow for the smart integration of scooters and E-bikes, which enable last-mile connectivity and convenient short trips within the city.

Between February and June of this year, more than 2.2 million scooter trips were logged in Atlanta, covering more than 2.3 million miles. During the same period, 286 crashes and 125 injuries were reported.

Estimates also show that 700,000 of those trips replaced travel that would have been made with automobiles – a potentially game-changing statistic.

But public safety is our top priority and making Atlanta a No Rider Zone for scooters at night will ensure the safest conditions for everyone – pedestrians, motorists, cyclists and people in wheelchairs.

The Atlanta Police Department is also conducting an education campaign on scooters, to foster awareness around public use and safety before law enforcement begins heavily citing users for infractions. As of August 9, APD had issued 256 warnings and citations.

As we work towards a larger solution, we are focusing in the short term on changes we can make quickly and relatively inexpensively:

We plan to revise our selection process for scooter companies to limit the number of vendors, so we can better manage the process and develop a working partnership with these businesses. Currently, nine companies are permitted to operate here; we anticipate a reduction in that number.

In the next 30 days, we plan to implement changes to our streets to better protect everyone. We will use temporary barriers, painted demarcations and any tool we can find to complement our growing network of 118 miles of dedicated space for bikes and scooters.

Mobility technology is rapidly changing the way people move around the city, and we must continue to adapt our traditional ideas about street usage to accommodate everyone safely. The recent speed cap for scooters on the Atlanta Beltline is one example of the kind of flexibility and management that can work.

There is more we can do to facilitate a safe and efficient transportation ecosystem, where all modes of travel coexist in a seamless and productive way.

At the same time, it is important to pause and assess where we are and how we move forward as a scooter city in a responsible way.

The night-time ban and moratorium on new vendors will enable us to better strategize around the explosion of scooters, e-Bikes and other mobility devices that are diversifying our streets in ways we never imagined.

This new trend in micro-mobility compels us to find the safest, most pragmatic ways to manage these options, and facilitate their proliferation, without endangering users and others.

We do not want to over-correct, but we must improve. Too many lives depend on it.

Keisha Lance Bottoms is mayor of Atlanta.