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Scoot or Scoot Over? Policy Challenges Facing the Increasing Adoption of E-Scooters

August 07, 2019
In the months leading up to my summer in D.C., I dreamed of walking along the National Mall, the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial glistening grandly in the backdrop as hundreds of tourists strolled casually about. What I did not picture, however, were the electric scooters that have taken over the city. From their incessant buzzing to their seemingly ubiquitous presence, these scooters have become a fixture of the city landscape.

And it’s not just D.C. Over the past few years, these scooters have popped up in major cities across the world, from Paris to San Francisco. However, as these scooters rapidly integrate into metropolitan areas, they also present a series of important regulatory challenges for modern urban planners and policymakers.

Image: Are sidewalks designed for walking, or for riding? As shareable electric scooters appear i...Image: Are sidewalks designed for walking, or for riding? As shareable electric scooters appear in more and more cities, policymakers need to deal with protecting both walkers and riders. Source: Daily News.

The Big Issues: Safety and Scenery

While electric scooters offer relatively cheap and convenient transportation around cities, their use poses a danger to both pedestrians and riders. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Health in Austin, Texas, found that 20 scooter rides out of every 100,000 result in significant injuries, with 15% of those injuries including severe brain trauma.[1] Other safety concerns include the lack of widespread helmet use, drunk riding, and increased traffic. As a result, many cities, including Washington D.C., have considered prohibiting scooter use and many have outlawed driving the scooters on sidewalks.

Another major concern stems from where riders dock their scooters. Scattered scooters present both an unsafe and unattractive addition to these cities’ landscapes. But to be fair, scooter companies are not completely at fault. Scooter company Lime instructs users to “park in areas outside the main pedestrian pathway,” while another company, Jump, similarly instructs riders to “never leave your scooter blocking walkways or accessibility ramps.”[2][3] Yet, cities like San Francisco have received an increasing numbers of complaints about these scooters obstructing sidewalks and littering streets.[4] With the increased number of scooter users paired with an increase in complaints from residents, many city policymakers find themselves faced with the challenge of crafting sustainable solutions that work for both sides.

Scooter Regulation and Enforcement Challenges

City governments around the world have struggled with how to regulate these scooters and, more importantly, enforce scooter laws. Some municipalities, such as Nashville and Beverly Hills, have proposed legislation that outright bans e-scooters, following reports of scooter-related deaths.[5][6] Closer to home, lawmakers in D.C. are considering a bill that imposes a temporary ban on e-scooters from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., caps the number of scooters in the District, and establishes scooter speed limits.[7] Other policies in the pipeline nationwide would place limitations on where scooters can be parked, prohibit riders from using the sidewalks, and require helmet use.

However, speaking from both research and personal experience, many riders frequently ignore such regulations. According to a survey of e-scooter riders, over half used the sidewalk.[8] Similarly, a UCLA study found that helmet use among riders is less than 4%.[9] And, while these behaviors are illegal in cities such as Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles, there is a lack of strong (if any) enforcement mechanisms. Some cities threaten fines for improper scooter use but, without resources devoted to monitoring scooter riders, enforcement measures remain largely unenforceable. It’s as if legislators built a regulatory fence but left the gate wide open, easily allowing circumvention.

What’s Next?

Given the developing regulatory environment, some pedestrians have turned to litigation, attempting to sue scooter companies for damages. A handful of lawsuits in California were brought against scooter companies for injuries, but suing these companies – especially when the plaintiff was a rider and not a pedestrian – is an uphill battle.[10] One prominent lawsuit accused Bird and Lime, two scooter companies, of “gross negligence” and “aiding and abetting assault” for allowing customers to dump scooters on the streets and failing to take action on reports of harmed pedestrians.[11]

Beyond lawsuits, some have proposed redesigning cities to accommodate scooters. Many see these low-cost and environmentally-friendly scooters as the future of transportation, so wholeheartedly embracing them may offer an easier solution. Adding scooter lanes, creating two-wheeled parking spaces for scooters, and reintroducing roundabouts could help alleviate traffic and safety issues stemming from increasing scooter use.[12]

Image: Some cities, such as Santa Monica (pictured here), have introduced scooter parking spaces....Image: Some cities, such as Santa Monica (pictured here), have introduced scooter parking spaces. Source: Streetsblog LA.

Ultimately, e-scooters are likely here to stay. In our age of rapid innovation, technology has begun to outpace our traditionally slow-moving government. Beyond the latest in ride-sharing advances, e-scooters reflect an increasingly communal and gig-based society. The question now is whether governments will choose to fight them, tentatively allow them, or embrace them with open arms.

Student Blog Disclaimer
  • The views expressed on the Student Blog are the author’s opinions and don’t necessarily represent the Wharton Public Policy Initiative’s strategies, recommendations, or opinions.

References

  [1]https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-scooter-injuries-getting-around-20190509-story.html

  [2]https://help.li.me/hc/en-us/articles/115004745967-Parking

  [3]https://jump.com/safety/

  [4]https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/New-scooters-in-town-a-hit-with-riders-not-so-12819523.php

  [5]https://www.consumerreports.org/product-safety/deaths-tied-to-e-scooters/

  [6]https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/11/18/electric-scooters-driving-city-leaders-pedestrians-mad/2030745002/

  [7]https://dc.curbed.com/2019/7/2/20679945/scooters-electric-bikes-regulations-mary-cheh-bill

  [8]https://www.consumerreports.org/product-safety/deaths-tied-to-e-scooters/

  [9]https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2722574?guestAccessKey=c8d43986-1131-4af7-b3bc-a9f9415cd3b3

  [10]https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-25/electric-scooter-injuries-pile-up-but-lawsuits-are-hard-to-make

  [11]https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/10/20/class-action-lawsuit-accuses-e-scooter-companies-gross-negligence/?utm_term=.97e5f6e9b2e8

  [12]https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-16/five-ways-to-redesign-cities-for-the-scooter-era

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  • <h3>Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics</h3><p><img width="155" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image486 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg 2x" data-max-w="463" data-max-h="596"/>Find statistics on business tax, individual tax, charitable and exempt organizations, IRS operations and budget, and income (SOI), as well as statistics by form, products, publications, papers, and other IRS data.</p><p> Quick link to <strong>Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data</strong> that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system: <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2" target="_blank">http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/about/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4</a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/#</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>MapStats</h3><p> A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for <strong>state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data</strong> (demographic, economic, and geographic).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/" target="_blank">http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</h3><p><img width="200" height="198" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image483 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 3x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="945"/>NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of <strong>climate and historical weather data and information</strong>.</p><p> Quick link to home page: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links</a></p><p> Quick link to Text & Map Search: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="http://www.nber.org/data/" target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/data/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/" target="_blank">http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series" target="_blank">http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products</a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/topics" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/topics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states" target="_blank">http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The Penn World Table</h3><p> The Penn World Table provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 189 countries/territories for some or all of the years 1950-2010.</p><p><a href="https://pwt.sas.upenn.edu/php_site/pwt71/pwt71_form.php" target="_blank">Quick link.</a> </p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics" target="_blank">http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>HUD State of the Cities Data Systems</h3><p><strong><img width="200" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image482 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 3x" data-max-w="612" data-max-h="613"/>The SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.</strong> It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html" target="_blank">http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>