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Atlanta mayor halts dockless vehicle permitting in wake of e-scooter deaths

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The moratorium precedes the introduction of legislation that could address problems

Four black Bird e-scooters sit in front of a white wall.
Each dockless operating company in Atlanta is allowed to have just 2,000 devices in its fleet.
Photo courtesy of Bird

Atlanta’s e-scooter craze has come to a boil so severe that some local leaders have teased the idea of banning the dockless devices, at least until controlling measures can be devised.

Now, in the wake of two e-scooter-related fatalities this summer, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has enacted a moratorium on the issuing of permits to companies that operate the rentable vehicles.

Bottoms’s executive order won’t impact the companies holding valid permits, but it will cap the amount of e-scooters and bikes available citywide at just under 12,000.

The mayor’s move also precedes legislation that’s being marketed as an answer to “the longterm impacts these devices levy against the city’s infrastructure and public safety, and the compounded strain placed on the city’s public safety officials and first responders,” according to a city-issued press release.

That legislation is expected to be unveiled during the August 5 Atlanta City Council meeting.

E-scooters popped up overnight in May 2018, with mobility company Bird being the first in the local market.

“Across the nation, municipalities are dealing with the sudden and unforeseen impact these devices have had on our communities,” Bottoms said in the release. “While some municipalities have banned the devices altogether, the City of Atlanta acted in good faith to work with the private sector to explore innovative solutions to ease existing commuting strains.”

Since Bird’s debut, e-scooters have become ubiquitous, and some users have abused the easily accessible transit options.

Atlanta Council President Felicia Moore believes some companies have been disregarding the 2,000-device maximum they’re allowed to distribute, although she told Curbed Atlanta that’s just a hunch based on the clutter of e-scooters she’s seen in town.

Moore also acknowledged that the problem isn’t necessarily the prevalence of e-scooters, but the way certain people are using them; the two-wheelers are frequently found littered on sidewalks, saddled with more than one rider, and, on at least one occasion, whirring down the interstate.

Advocates for alternative modes of transportation blame the city’s car-centric design for much of the constant misuse, insisting the deaths of Eric Amis, Jr. and William Alexander—both killed by automobiles while riding e-scooters—could have been prevented if more streets were outfitted with Lite Individual Transportation (LIT) lanes.