Georgia senators aim for hands-on state regulation of scooters

By: - September 24, 2019 8:53 am

State lawmakers are considering ways to regulate the use of scooters in Georgia, including banning their use on sidewalks. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

Electric scooters are banned from the state’s Georgia World Congress Center campus, but some riders still get in the way of downtown Atlanta visitors while cruising on sidewalks.

A state Senate study committee met at the big Atlanta convention facility Monday to discuss potential statewide regulation of the electric scooter industry. The convention center’s police chief said the scooters can pose problems when large events are held at the nearby Centennial Park and Mercedes Benz stadium that he also oversees. 

“Hundreds and hundreds of scooters come right up to gates and intermingle with guests waiting to go into the gates,” Chief Paul Guerrucci said. “It’s a homeland security concern for us.”

Leaders in Atlanta, Athens, college campuses and other urban centers are struggling to find ways to accommodate the improved mobility scooters offer, while mitigating the conflicts with people on sidewalks and in the streets.

Last session, state lawmakers drafted e-scooter legislation, but that was moving too fast, Senate Majority Whip Steve Gooch said.

The state is working to develop a law that better defines the new wave of dockless mobility devices and provides some baseline rules, like restricting them to bike lanes. Local jurisdictions would be able to come up with regulations that suit them best.

“It’s a new technological innovation that is bringing good solutions to what I consider last-mile solutions in transit and mobility,” said Gooch, chairman of the study committee and a Republican from Dahlonega. “This technology has been around for many years, but it’s new to Georgia to a lot of us. Anytime there’s something new that’s introduced into the market there’s obviously frustration and questions and concerns about it.”

Over the coming weeks, the study committee will hear from law enforcement, associations representing cities and counties, transportation agencies, local hospitals and more.

Monday, representatives of the two largest electric scooter companies, Bird and Lime, spoke to the rapid growth since their May 2018 debut in Georgia.

About 342,000 riders took 1.1 million rides on Lime scooters during the first 12 months. Since launching in Atlanta in May 2018, Bird has booked 2.6 million rides.

Bird and Lime officials said state laws governing bicycles provide a template for e-scooters. As the number of bicycle lanes and racks to place scooters will increase in cities, so will the safety. 

“When you build infrastructure people will park them properly and they’ll ride where they’re supposed to ride,” said Nima Daivari, community affairs manager for Lime in Georgia. “Right now, people don’t know where to ride, where I’m supposed to put these.”

Georgia’s cities and counties are largely responsible for regulating the local roads where scooters are proliferating. 

Officials in some cities, like Smyrna and Marietta, have banned e-scooters altogether, while Decatur regulates how many scooters certain companies are allowed to rent.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.