You’ve probably noticed the sudden appearance of scooters and mopeds nestled on street corners, parked on sidewalks and resting alongside the BeltLine trails. In just the last few months, the city has been swamped with new forms of alternative transportation, which are inexpensive to use and environmentally friendly, but are proving to be problematic for pedestrians and drivers.
Back in May, I was driving to meet friends for dinner at Manuel’s Tavern when I saw three people riding the stand-up Bird scooters along North Highland Avenue. Later that same evening, while walking on the Eastside Trail, I noticed Bird scooters had been seemingly abandoned along the BeltLine. I stopped my walk and Googled to see what this sudden flock of Birds was all about.
Within weeks, I saw that Lime scooters had entered the market. Just in the last week, I walked out of my building in the Old Fourth Ward and was met by a trio of yellow mopeds clustered on the sidewalk. Yep, Muving has introduced its electric sit-down scooters to the city. Even Uber has jumped on the bandwagon and is in negotiations to bring its Jump electric bikes to Intown.
It’s electric, rentable madness!
Don’t get me wrong, I think having all these electric powered forms of transportation in Atlanta is fantastic. We definitely need it. However, there are going to have to be some rules and regulations because this quick proliferation is already causing safety issues.
You might have seen the viral photo of the man riding a Bird scooter along the Downtown Connector in rush-hour traffic, or perhaps you’ve had to dodge one as its driver ignored a traffic signal. The clustered mopeds are much larger obstacles to get around, especially when they are blocking a sidewalk.
The electric stand-up scooters are, technically, not allowed on the BeltLine, but people whiz up and down on the trails daily and officials seem to be taking a hands-off approach. Since they only go 15 miles per hour, I don’t think the scooters are as dangerous as the speed racers on their bicycles peddling like they’re in an X Games competition. Of more concern is the appearance of the scooters littering the sides of the trail or left parked on the BeltLine until they are collected in the evening for re-charging. It’s unsightly and a potential hazard.
The Atlanta City Council has indicated that it supports the scooter companies and that vehicle-sharing is crucial to getting more cars off the streets. However, a new ordinance is in the works requiring the electric vehicle operators to have special permits, liability insurance and encouraging riders to wear helmets. The parking situation for these dockless vehicles is still something that must be addressed, but I hope the city doesn’t get too heavy-handed in its approach such as outright banning (temporarily done in San Francisco) and a move in Austin that required dockless vehicles to be locked to bike racks.
My bottom line: enjoy the ride, but be mindful of pedestrians, don’t create safety hazards on sidewalks and, most of all, obey the traffic rules.
Editor’s Note: The printed version of this editorial included a mention of Ofo, a dockless bike-sharing company, which announced last week that it was leaving the Atlanta market after only a month due to corporate financial restructuring.