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Atlanta City Council OKs restrictions on dockless, shareable e-scooters, bikes

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Bicycling leader calls for immediate implementation of safer infrastructure amidst e-vehicle explosion

a picture of e-scooters in a pile
A goldmine for e-scooter chargers, spotted recently on an Atlanta street.
Submitted via Kristen Rogers

In a perfect world, Atlanta’s scourge of e-scooter litter could soon be curbed, thanks to newly passed city council legislation.

On Monday, Atlanta lawmakers elected—almost unanimously—to adopt an ordinance that will regulate how dockless, shareable scooters and bikes are operated within city limits and ban them from roving on local sidewalks.

The first rentable e-scooters, Birds, touched down in Atlanta in May, and have since become a saving grace for commuters seeking last-mile connectivity and a plague for pedestrians (and some business owners) both able-bodied and not.

The new laws not only prohibit scooter and bike users from whirring down public rights of way beside streets; they also require operators to pay $12,000 for permits for up to 500 vehicles. (Each e-scooter after the first 500 will cost companies $50).

The scooters, per the new laws, will also be restricted by a 15-mile-per-hour speed limit, which Uber reps say will not impact the JUMP bike program that offers shareable, electric-powered, ostensibly faster bicycles for a fee similar to scooters.

a photo of two people riding one Bird scooter on the Beltline
Under the new ordinance, this—sharing a scooter—would no longer be allowed.
Sean Keenan, Curbed Atlanta

Peeved Atlantans will also be happy to know that e-scooter companies, per the new rules, must mandate that vehicles be parked standing up on sidewalks in a way that yields at least five feet of travel space for pedestrians.

Should patrons fail to dock otherwise dockless vehicles outside of the public rights of way, operators could be liable to pay a $1,000 fine per day.

Rebecca Serna, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition executive director, said during the council meeting the city needs to adapt its roadways to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and e-scooter users with the same sense of urgency that prompted the rapid repair of the portion of Interstate 85 that collapsed at the beginning of 2017.

A photo of a man riding a Bird scooter on the highway
Perhaps new regulations will put an end to this kind of behavior.
Travis Salters/Emily Hoberman, via Atlanta City Council Twitter

“[Riders] are going to use the sidewalks as long as they don’t feel safe in the streets,” Serna said, essentially calling for “complete streets” initiatives, which could fall by the wayside amidst funding shortfalls with the city’s Renew Atlanta and TSPLOST programs.

During the Atlanta City Council’s winter recess, which concluded Monday, ride-share giants Uber and Lyft debuted e-scooter services (alongside Uber’s new bike program) in the city.

How exactly these companies plan to adapt to the new rules remains to be seen.