Editor’s Letter: Is it time to ban e-scooters?

At the end of June, Nashville moved to ban dockless electric scooters from its streets. I recently visited Nashville and witnessed the types of behavior that led to the decision: scooters blocking sidewalks and roads, piled in heaps, rude behavior by users and far too many of the devices sitting idle on every available street corner. A rider was also recently killed after being struck by a car.

Sound familiar?

Atlanta currently has, according to one report, 10,000 rentable e-scooters and bikes on its busy streets. While the city has created rules for the deployment and use of scooters, they are blatantly being ignored by users and the companies that own them. It is impossible for the stretched-thin Atlanta Police Department to deal with all the violations that occur on an hourly basis.

On June 23, a Sunday evening, I witnessed along a less than one mile stretch of North Highland Avenue what has become the norm around Intown – scooters blocking the sidewalk, sitting in the road, lying in heaps and riders ignoring the fact that scooters are not allowed on sidewalks. Much of this comes down to the carelessness and irresponsibility of some users who have left their concern and common sense at home. They’ve paid a couple dollars for a ride and face no consequences. It’s someone else’s toy and mess to clean up.

While users bear plenty of responsibility, the various companies that brought the devices to Atlanta must also shoulder the blame. Bird, Lyft, Lime, Bolt, Spin and others are placing far too many of the devices on the streets and while they face fines and regulations, you would never guess it judging by their actions.

On June 21, the Atlanta BeltLine introduced a geofenced speed limit for scooters along the Eastside Trail and limited the number of devices that could be deployed at trail entry points. A company called Charge is hoping to wrangle the tangle of scooters by installing docking stations at more than 200 locations for the dockless devices. Whether that will help is a big question mark.

If you go to any neighborhood message board or check social media, there are passionate voices calling for the total banning of scooters and others who say they are a necessity to help reduce traffic and make the city more connected. I see both sides of the argument, but the scooter situation is out of hand and steps must be taken now. I’ve started reading reports of scooter vigilantes who are purposely knocking over and throwing scooters into the bushes to get them off the streets. Just for the record, that’s not helpful.

Cities around metro Atlanta – including Alpharetta, Marietta and Norcross – have banned scooters and other cities around the country are following suit. Nashville’s mayor wants to create a new plan that would reintroduce scooters, allowing two companies to operate in the city and follow more stringent, enforceable rules.

I don’t want to be an old fuddy-duddy, but I think it’s time for Atlanta to follow Nashville’s lead. I don’t want to see a total ban on scooters, but it’s time to regulate them so that are actually useful to the community rather than a public nuisance.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley is the editor of Atlanta Intown.