How Can DC Overcome the Obstacles Associated with E-Scooters?

By Peter DePaolis

e scooter

Electric scooters have become the cool, new transportation trend that many riders have begun to utilize over the last several years. E-scooters are a cheap, fuel-efficient way to travel around the city, especially during a fun night out. With the onslaught of dockless scooter companies rising in popularity, many states have decided to open their arms to the possibility of collaboration with these electric scooter moguls. Though electric scooters do pose great advantages to riders around the country, how do cities address the issues surrounding scooter usage – including serious e-scooter injuries?

What Obstacles do E-Scooters Pose in DC?

Electric scooters are a vamped-up version of the traditional manual vehicle, commonly used by children. This adult variant of the scooter is markedly more dangerous because of its motorized nature. Several states where dockless and other motorized scooters are legal to operate in public, including DC, have dealt with several of the same issues:

  • A rise in scooter accidents Understandably, the rate of e-scooter accidents has increased since states have begun to consider them as roadway vehicles. With electric scooter availability increasing, the country is in a type of transition period in which riders still consider e-scooters in the same nonchalant way that they would address the manual scooter.

That is, many scooter riders either don’t know or don’t follow scooter-related laws. Or, states have not yet established a full set of comprehensive laws that dictate rider behavior. This causes an excessive amount of distracted and/or intoxicated riding, which are the top causes of scooter accidents.

  • Pedestrian traffic issues – Electric scooters can cause pedestrian traffic issues when riders operate them in undesignated areas, in crosswalks, or in the areas surrounding docking stations. This is not only an issue in DC, but in other states, too. For instance, residents in San Diego report issues traveling as pedestrians because there is such a high volume of electric scooter riders during congested times. This causes injury to pedestrians that collide with scooter riders. 
  • Parking/docking station issues – Parking and docking station issues reflect, in a way, the previous obstacle. However, this differs in that it addresses the dockless scooter company’s placement of their charging stations. Scooter docking stations can congest the traffic around their immediate vicinity. Coupled with riders parking their dockless scooters on sidewalks, the issue of scooter congestion – even without riders – becomes apparent.

How to Address these Issues

When it comes to new trends in technology, it takes some time to troubleshoot and find solutions that work for each state. Some of the solutions that scooter-legal states have employed include:

  • Creating location bans in where scooters can operate. In DC, riding on sidewalks is still legal in some areas. Though this initial law might have seemed like a good idea during their test period and subsequent ruling on e-scooters, we are now seeing that electric scooter riders cause pedestrian injuries when operating on sidewalks. Location bans extend to public areas like parks and other bike paths where e-scooters could create unsafe traveling conditions.
  • To address the issue of parking congestion, states might need to employ more regulations surrounding where riders can park their dockless scooters, and where docking stations of motorized scooters can safely exist. This may warrant regulation of where motorized scooters can sit without becoming a safety hazard to solve this issue of scooters and docking stations littering pedestrian walkways.
  • As of June, D.C. established an overnight ban, or time restraint, on when riders can operate their scooters. This intelligent decision prevents college-aged riders from operating their vehicles in low visibility during a time notorious for drinking and riding. Setting time restraints is a decisive way to prevent some of the negligent riding practices that riders habitually take part in.

Though there may be a necessary period of trouble shooting the use of motorized scooters as a form of public transportation, figuring these issues out will only benefit the public in the long run. By normalizing scooters as vehicles through imposing the same laws that other roadway drivers follow, the instances of negligent scooter use and sidewalk congestion will decrease.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.