Problems With New Public Electric Scooters

Gunnar Strom, Contributor

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Most everyone is familiar with the new scooters that have been popping up around the Phoenix area, often sitting on the side of the road near bus stops or popular restaurants. These small motorized scooters seem to be the new way to navigate around town, making services like taxicabs, Uber, and Lyft obsolete in small areas. The objective of these scooters is simple: to make getting around towns fast, easy, and cheap. But with this new service comes several major problems that both the scooter companies and the cities that these scooters are in must figure out if these businesses want to stay relevant.

For those who aren’t familiar with the idea, these scooters are small and electric, powered off of a battery inside of the scooter itself. When someone finds one of these scooters, they can download an app and pay for each mile they ride on the scooters and then leave the scooter at their destination. Overnight, employees drive around and collect the scooters for charging, and then redeploy them at busy locations around the city. There are three main companies who own these scooters, Bird, Lime, and Razor. However, there are other companies that have also dipped their feet in the water with these scooters, including companies such as Uber.

The cities these scooters have been deployed in are expressing their concerns on the legality of this service, some more than others. First off, the scooters pretty much just appeared one day, overnight, with no warning and without anyone being told about it. The cities didn’t know how to regulate these scooters, since the slowest travel at about 10 miles per hour, and the fastest travel at about 20 miles per hour. This means that the scooters are much too fast to travel on the sidewalk but not fast enough to be considered something that could drive on the road. This also comes with the problem of rider safety: should riders be required to wear a helmet or other safety equipment? Even more concerning: should people without a drivers license be allowed to legally ride one? There also seems to be a bit of a gray area under Arizona law concerning these scooters. A man in Tempe, Arizona is facing DUI charges after riding a scooter on the sidewalk while under the influence, so the scooters clearly are thought of as a motor vehicle. However, under Arizona Revised Statutes 28-101, “electric bicycles and motorized skateboards are not considered a ‘motor vehicle.’” “The only reference to ‘scooter’ appears in the definition of a “motor-driven cycle,” said David Cantor, the man’s attorney. Cantor also said that he believed that this law is referencing things like Vespas.

The second major problem with the scooters is that the riders, once done using the scooters, can leave them wherever they want, and in any condition they want. This means that people can leave them off the beaten path, sometimes laying down or even broken. This creates areas that look tacky as the scooters are only replaced nicely once a day.

The companies have no power over how their products are used, and yet the cities, understandably, are attempting to regulate this service. Some of the cities are charging steep fees for these companies to deploy these scooters on the streets, and with the average scooter only making a few dollars a day, this charge is really making an impact on the deployment of these scooters. The charge in Tempe is the largest, $1.06 per scooter per day, meaning that for even just 100 scooters to be deployed for a week, it costs these companies nearly $750.

This has led to several of the big companies planning to withdraw all business from Tempe. Both Lime and Razor are planning to withdraw their scooters from Tempe by the end of the month after the new liability charges were introduced. However, the scooters are still going to be used in cities such as Downtown Gilbert, Phoenix, and Scottsdale, as they do not yet have restrictions and laws on the scooters.


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