D.C. Council Approves Bill Requiring Scooters Be Locked To Racks, Capping E-Bike Speed Most of the rules go into effect right away, except for the rule to require scooters be locked to racks. That would go into effect in October 2021.
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D.C. Council Approves Bill Requiring Scooters Be Locked To Racks, Capping E-Bike Speed

Lime scooters outside a Metro station. Elvert Barnes/Flickr hide caption

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Elvert Barnes/Flickr

The D.C. Council gave final approval on Tuesday to a bill establishing new rules and restrictions on the companies that rent out scooters and other shared electric mobility devices.

Among the notable provisions, the bill will:

  • Require devices to be locked to racks or other objects while maintaining at least three feet of unobstructed walkway. This rule will go into effect in October 2021, allowing time for companies to update their fleet and install more bike racks.
  • Create a $150 fine for riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs and a $125 penalty for tampering with the vehicles.
  • Instruct the D.C. Department of Transportation to build at least 200 racks a year until 2025 for parking, though funding is unavailable at this time.
  • Limit e-bike speed limits to 20 mph. Scooter speeds are already limited to 10 mph.
  • Cap the number of devices to 20,000 until 2023. The Washington Post reports only seven companies are currently allowed to operate about a total of 7,000 scooters and up to 4,000 e-bikes. Greater Greater Washington has previously called for 20,000 shared bikes in the District.
  • Mandate that a specific percentage of vehicles must be available in all eight wards of the District.
  • Require companies to maintain a 24-hour hotline to report complaints and free virtual education classes on riding safely.
  • Reaffirm the need for permits to operate a scooter fleet and establishes maintenance requirements. Among the requirements are a deposit paid to the District in order to pay for damage to public property.
  • The bill also bans scooters placed within 300 feet of an elementary school, middle school or senior wellness center, unless it is near a Metro station.
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"Electric scooters and electric-powered bicycles have produced multiple benefits for the District, including reducing congestion, reducing our carbon footprint, and giving visitors to the District inexpensive but effective means to travel throughout the District," reads a committee report summarizing the bill. "However, with these benefits have come significant costs. The District has an established bike culture, but at this time, the District lacks a safe motorized bike and electric scooter culture — resulting in many users neglecting to follow important safety rules."

Lawmakers say they've heard of and seen bad behavior from scooter riders, including weaving in and out of pedestrians on sidewalks, riding while drunk, and carelessly leaving scooters in the middle of sidewalks. That has prompted complaints from some residents, who say the vehicles can block access and create hazards for people who use wheelchairs and canes for vision assistance.

"This bad behavior is not just dangerous to the user, but to the public at large as well," the bill's summary says.

Scooter companies themselves also have a mixed record of addressing issues like blocked sidewalks, councilmembers say.

But several residents pointed out that cars and other motor vehicles cause far more havoc — including deaths and injuries — than scooters and e-bikes.

The District Department of Transportation mostly supported the bill, but said it overstepped in areas like dictating how many devices should be permitted.

Dan Winston, regional manager for Spin, said the company supports the plan for more safe parking.

"Spin has the most experience operating lock-to scooters, with previous experience in Chicago and San Francisco," Winston said in an email. "We have led the industry in alternative parking solutions like hubs, incentivized drop points and neighborhood ambassadors."

Robert Gardner of Lime says the legislation is a mixed bag. The 300-foot limit on operations around schools and senior centers is a pretty blunt instrument, he says.

"Many of the provisions are too prescriptive and unfortunately limit the operations of a proven, safe, and socially distant form of transportation when it is more needed than ever," he said. "Additionally, lock-to (racks) can be problematic given the current budgetary constraints driving uncertainty around timelines for implementing the number of bike racks that the (bill) requires. Without those bike racks, then lock-to is not going to achieve the effect that is desired."

One of the most controversial ideas, a ban on the use of scooters between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., was pulled from the final version of the bill, which was introduced last year by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, Ward 6's Charles Allen and Ward 1's Brianne Nadeau.

The bill, which was approved unanimously, heads next to Mayor Muriel Bowser.

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