Regarding Scooters

From this week’s Manager’s update:

DATE: August 3, 2018
TO: Ruffin Hall, City Manager
FROM: Michael Moore, Transportation Director
RE: Bird Scooters

Background

Approximately three weeks ago, Bird, an electric scooter sharing company, began operating in the City of Raleigh. These scooters operate like dockless bike sharing companies, where users employ a smartphone mobile application to locate, unlock and rent their service. Approximately 150 Bird scooters are currently operating in Raleigh, with distribution focused primarily in Downtown, Glenwood South, and Cameron Village. In general, commercial activity that occurs in the right of way is not permitted without enabling action by the City. No such enabling action occurred prior the deployment of these scooters by Bird.

The City Attorney’s Office has determined that dockless scooters fall into a similar classification as mopeds. Mopeds require an operator to be a minimum of 16 years old and wear a helmet while operating the moped. Neither a driver’s license nor automobile liability insurance are required. Mopeds must also have a title and be registered with the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, and while mopeds are motor vehicles, they are treated more like bicycles than automobiles or motorcycles for the purposes of North Carolina’s motor vehicle laws.

Benchmarking

Several other cities, including Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Durham, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Washington DC have implemented or are considering trial or pilot programs to more thoroughly evaluate the multitude of issues arising from dockless scooters in their transportation environment.

These cities have identified various operating parameters, addressing issues related to scooter specifications, permissible fleet size, fleet rebalancing, scooter condition and maintenance, parking locations, insurance requirements, data sharing, permitting, fees, and penalties.

Several cities, including Charlotte, have elected to permit scooter operations under pilot program or trial permit period. This approach affords local governments the opportunity to better understand the technology, the positive and negative issues it may generate, and its potential place in the local transportation system.

Current Work and Next Steps

City Staff, including representatives from Transportation and Police, met with representatives from Bird to further confirm the operating parameters of the company. A key focus of this conversation was, and will continue to be, ensuring public safety for all rental system users relative to other users of the public right-of-way.

Staff shared the City’s intent to maintain the quality of life for our citizens and to prevent any negative impacts on local neighborhoods or businesses. To this point, staff continues to share situations and issues where scooters were operated in contradiction to Bird’s terms and conditions of use (multiple riders, no helmets, etc.) or were improperly parked, posing tripping hazards for pedestrians.

In response, Bird has provided “push” notifications to their users and has a program to provide free helmets (for the cost of shipping). They have also conducted free helmet giveaways recently at the Downtown Farmers Market.

Raleigh’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC) is currently discussing potential frameworks to recommend to City Council that would permit the operation of dockless bikeshare systems within Raleigh’s rights of way. While somewhat different than scooter sharing companies, these systems share many similarities with dockless bikeshare systems and can be permitted and regulated through similar mechanisms. Staff anticipates a final recommendation from the BPAC on an approach to dockless bicycles at their August 20 meeting that would be presented for the Council’s consideration on September 4.

Transportation staff will continue to work closely with the City Attorney’s Office on this matter and will provide another update to Council during the “Report of the Manager” portion of the regular meeting on August 21.