Electric bikes and scooters have been popping up on metro Atlanta roads and sidewalks since last spring. Lawmakers are considering statewide regulations. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Georgia lawmakers seek to regulate electric bikes and scooters

A pair of bills in the General Assembly would regulate electric bikes and scooters in Georgia at a time when some local communities are imposing their own rules.

One bill would prohibit users from parking the devices on sidewalks and other places where they would obstruct pedestrians or vehicles. A second bill would allow electric bikes capable of traveling no more than 20 mph to travel on bike paths, but it would prohibit faster ones from using those paths.

The proposed state regulations come as metro Atlanta communities are struggling to control electric scooters and bikes, which critics say endanger their riders, pedestrians and others. Neither bill would pre-empt local regulations.

The House Transportation Committee heard testimony on both bills Thursday. State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, the committee’s chairman, said the devices can be useful, but the state needs rules of the road to govern the developing technology.

“All this technology has come out over the last few months,” Tanner said. “This may be something we’ll need to address on a regular basis.”

Electric bikes and scooters have been popping up on metro Atlanta roads and sidewalks since last spring. Companies such as Bird, Lime, Lyft and Uber have deployed the devices, which their customers rent through phone apps.

Supporters say they’re a boon to people who use them for short trips and a key to addressing metro Atlanta’s future transportation needs. But the devices have proliferated faster than regulations to govern them, and local officials are scrambling to catch up.

In January the Atlanta City Council approved rules that require scooters to be parked upright on sidewalks, leaving room for pedestrians. Decatur has heavily regulated electric scooters, and Marietta recently banned them.

Now lawmakers have proposed statewide regulations.

Tanner’s House Bill 454 would prohibit people from parking “motorized mobility devices” — designed to transport one person and traveling up to 20 mph — from parking on sidewalks (unless allowed by local ordinance), crosswalks, intersections and other locations that could hinder vehicles and pedestrians. The bill would allow anyone who encounters a device parked in a dangerous manner to move it.

HB 454 would allow people to ride electric scooters on bike paths, in bike lanes and on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less if no bike lane or path is available. It also includes provisions that would protect riders — for example, motorists would be required to yield to riders if they’re operating a device in a bike lane.

The committee expects to vote on the bill next week, after several tweaks are made.

House Bill 215 would allow electric bikes to use paved paths if they are not capable of reaching a speed of 20 mph or if the motor stops when the bike reaches that speed. It also would require people who ride faster electric bikes to wear helmets.

State Rep. Teri Anulewicz, D-Smyrna, the bill’s sponsor, said it would establish basic rules for an emerging technology. The committee passed the bill, which now goes to the House Rules Committee.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.

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