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Atlanta mayor vows that ‘larger solution’ for safe streets is on the horizon

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Meanwhile, complete streets advocates are calling for immediate—if temporary—action

A picture of two Bird e-scooters parked on a sidewalk, one knocked over on its side.
Even with permitting halted, e-scooters continue to litter Atlanta streets and sidewalks.
Sean Keenan, Curbed Atlanta

The Atlanta City Council proved again Monday it’s not quite sure how to control the shareable dockless vehicle craze.

Brief recap: Last month, in the wake of two e-scooter-related fatalities, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a moratorium on all future dockless vehicle permits, allowing only the 12,000 devices currently licensed to remain on the streets.

The move was supposed to precede legislation that would have been introduced at Monday’s council meeting. The goal was to find 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,” per city leaders.

But on Monday, officials kicked the proverbial can further down the road by passing legislation that strips the city's planning department of its authority to license more rentable e-scooters and bikes.

“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,” said Bottoms in a prepared statement.

“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,” she continued.

Monday’s codifying of the July 25 executive order also followed the third e-scooter-related death in Atlanta since May.

Although Bottoms’s response to the recent tragedies is not an outright ban, one national transportation expert told Curbed Atlanta in an op-ed last week the mayor has taken the wrong approach to wrangling the problem.

“While the fatalities are a tragic occurrence, instead of limiting the expansion of micromobility, Atlanta’s leaders should consider how to properly integrate this revolutionary new mode of transportation into its transit grid,” argued Niko Letunic, a principal at California-based transportation planning firm Eisen/Letunic.

Letunic added: “To truly be forward-thinking, Atlanta needs to advance its city infrastructure so all commuters—whether they be drivers, pedestrians, or micromobility users—can safely get to where they need to be.”

Atlanta Bicycle Coalition head Rebecca Serna reinforced that sentiment in an August 2 blog post lobbying for a “rapid response” to the need for infrastructure that suits all modes of transportation, not just cars.

Per Serna’s writing:

We’re calling on Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to take the following actions:

  1. Expedite an infrastructure plan to provide safe streets for all by assembling a rapid response team.
  2. Grant the team the authority to advance a network of protected lanes using quick-build materials like barricades while we wait for more permanent projects.

We also call on Atlanta City Council to follow the example of other U.S. cities invested in saving lives by:

  1. Setting a safe speed limit of 25 mph on all city streets
  2. Supporting our efforts at the state level to allow local governments to reduce speed limits to 20 mph on residential streets

The pressure’s on, the sense of urgency is obvious, but could it be too little, too late?