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Georgia lawmakers weighing possible statewide e-scooter regulations

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The dockless two-wheelers are either a nuisance or an asset, depending on whom you ask

An exterior photo of the Georgia Capitol Building with its gold dome.
Under the Gold Dome, of all places, conversations about dockless vehicles abound.
Karon Warren

Debates over how to regulate metro Atlanta’s newest dockless mobility option have ascended to the state level.

A newly assembled Georgia Senate study committee is teasing the idea of regulating e-scooters statewide, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

On Monday, the committee, created by state Sen. Steve Gooch, convened for its inaugural meeting, during which the Dahlonega Republican said he thinks the e-scooter market should “flourish,” per the newspaper.

The study group’s creation comes on the heels of a spate of e-scooter-related collisions, four of which have resulted in rider fatalities in metro Atlanta. (It appears Atlanta leads the nation in e-scooter-related deaths.)

The committee is tasked with determining what constitutes an e-scooter—for instance, what do you call a scooter with a seat?—and whether state laws should supersede local legislation.

Some metro Atlanta municipalities have taken the extreme route to address the e-scooter craze, which began when operating company Bird brought the two-wheelers to Atlanta in May 2018: Marietta, Norcross, and Smyrna have effected outright bans on the devices.

A temporary ban has been floated in Atlanta, too, although the Atlanta City Council, by and large, believes the fledgling commute option is an asset to the city’s transportation network—once it’s properly regulated, at least.

The first laws imposed upon e-scooters—and other dockless devices, like e-bikes and mopeds—in Atlanta came in January.

The initial regulations, among other restrictions, barred people from riding and parking the rentable vehicles on sidewalks.

Later actions by city officials limited dockless vehicles to daytime use—they’re turned off between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.—which upset mobility advocates who said the restrictions inhibit nighttime workers from using e-scooters and bikes to get home after a shift.

Permitting of new dockless devices has also been put on hold, in response to the injuries and deaths.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the permitting process would be overhauled and temporary bike lanes would be installed throughout the city, until local leaders could find a way to improve intown transportation infrastructure in a way that caters to alternative travel methods.

This isn’t the first time state-level politicians in Georgia have taken a look at e-scooters and how to monitor them.

In February, House representatives weighed a couple bills that would have outlawed parking in public rights of way and allowed scooters to use bike lanes and roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less, according to the AJC.

Those bills fizzled out, though.

Whether uniform state legislation is needed to regulate e-scooters or municipalities should tackle the issue locally remains to be seen.