Research Team: Elizabeth Deakin (lead) and Karl Reinhardt
UC Campus(es): UC Berkeley
Problem Statement: Scooter-sharing exploded onto the urban scene less than two years ago. According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, riders took 38.5 million trips on shared electric scooters in 2018, eclipsing the 36.5 million trips on shared, docked bicycles. Scooters are generally “dockless” (i.e., they can be picked up and dropped off almost anywhere within a designated service area). Electric scooters have offered an affordable and convenient mobility option for users. Advocates point out that they fill a need for first and last mile transportation and are an energy efficient and environmentally benign way to make short trips. However, in most cities where scooters are operating, users are disproportionately male, relatively affluent, and young; scooter use remains low in communities of color and low-income communities. Scooters also have created a number of problems for cities, with a spate of injuries from falls and collisions, complaints about conflicts with pedestrians and motorists, and parking conflicts including blocked sidewalks and unauthorized parking on private property. Thus, there is a widely shared interest in finding better ways to manage urban scooters and increase their benefits to the public. While scooter companies have largely followed an “act first, apologize later” strategy in introducing the vehicles, many cities have tried to move quickly in setting some rules for the scooter providers and users. Some cities have blocked scooters altogether until they can get regulations in place, but there is little guidance on what regulations are needed and effective. In several states, legislators are introducing bills that would direct city policies and in some cases restrict the regulatory options available to them. The resulting laws, ordinances and regulations vary widely, creating a patchwork of policies that most likely add costs and may create confusion and uncertainty about rules and expectations.
Project Description: This study inventoried and assessed state, regional and local laws, regulations and policies affecting the deployment and use of scooters, assessed their efficacy using Oakland, CA, as a case study, and recommended best practices to maximize benefits and reduce harms. Variability in the regulation of the scooter industry and its users served as a quasi-experimental function. By reviewing the various requirements and evaluating how different approaches work, researchers identified best practices.