Ever since electric scooters – or E-scooters, as they have been called – have begun appearing in Baltimore, the city has struggled to keep everyone safe. E-scooters do not just put riders at risk of being hurt in a crash with a car or if the scooter breaks in the middle of a ride; they also put pedestrians at risk of being hit by a reckless rider who cares little for the rules of the road. So Baltimore has raced to come up with adequate regulations and rules of the road that will keep people safe without congesting the sidewalks or roadways of the city, and while allowing people to make use of E-scooters for the short distance travels that they were designed to make.
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian summarize some of the most important aspects of those E-scooter regulations.
How E-Scooters Work
There are two major E-scooter companies: Bird and Lime. While Lime began as a bike-rental company that allowed riders to park their bikes anywhere, rather than in designated docks, Bird is exclusively an E-scooter-rental company. Both originated in California and are headquartered there.
Both Bird and Lime run and maintain smartphone applications that allow users to find E-scooters in their area, then scan a particular E-scooter to reserve a ride. The rental fee is deducted, and another fee accumulates for every minute the E-scooter is reserved. Once the trip is complete, the rider scans the E-scooter again and the reservation is terminated. Riders do not need to return their E-scooter to a designated location – they can leave them on the side of the road or any public place for the next rider to find.
How We Got Here: E-Scooters Arrive in Baltimore
Bird and Lime's business models both employ an incredibly brazen tactic: when they enter a new city, they drop off hundreds of their E-scooters and let riders figure things out for themselves. Cities and municipalities often have regulations and traffic laws that never accounted for swarms of E-scooters that could travel up to 20 miles per hour on the sidewalk. Nevertheless, Bird and Lime's history of entering into new markets has shown that they prefer to unleash their E-scooters and then force the city to scramble as they decide how to regulate them.
Baltimore got this treatment in July 2018. Almost immediately, emergency rooms in the Baltimore area were inundated with injuries related to E-scooter rides. Many of the injured people are riders who lost control of their E-scooter and ended up in a single-person accident, though some of these riders only got hurt because their E-scooter malfunctioned. Many others, though, were innocent pedestrians who were run down by oncoming E-scooters or who got hurt trying to get out of the way in time.
Ever since E-scooters came to Baltimore, the city has been scrambling to decide how to best regulate E-scooters so that people can use them for short distances without imperiling pedestrians and car drivers, and without littering the streets with out-of-use E-scooters.
Baltimore's Pilot Program for E-Scooters
The city of Baltimore has decided to follow in the footsteps of another city that had problems with E-scooter companies invading their city – Denver. After Bird dropped hundreds of E-scooters in Denver, the city responded to the problems they created by ordering the company to remove its vehicles, seizing those that remained, and fining E-scooter users. Then Denver created a year-long pilot program that allowed Bird to provide 250 E-scooters within the city limits, regulated how the E-scooters were to be ridden, and made Bird responsible for ensuring the E-scooters were docked or parked in designated areas, rather than haphazardly on the sidewalk.
Baltimore has followed Denver's idea, launching a 6-month pilot program with Bird that began on August 23, 2018, and was extended into April 2019, while the city drafted permanent legislation that would regulate the E-scooters. The program allowed 1,000 E-scooters into the city, on a host of conditions.
- Bird had six hours to move E-scooters out of areas that were oversaturated with scooters or from sidewalks that posed a public access or safety risk and had the responsibility to ensure that its E-scooters were distributed to all areas of the city.
- Bird was responsible for making sure the E-scooters were in working order and had adequate lighting on them.
- E-scooters could only be parked on the street like motorcycles, and on the sidewalk so long as they allowed a path four feet wide for pedestrians to walk. Improperly parked could be seized by parking police.
- Riders cannot take an E-scooter onto the sidewalk.
- Riders under the age of 16 are required to wear helmets.
- Bird had to maintain a 24-hour customer service hotline, and display contact information on their E-scooters for bystanders to see.
- Bird had to maintain $1,000,000 in insurance to cover the costs of bodily injury, property damage, or death from using its E-scooters.
Permanent Legislation Still Being Drafted
Since the passage of this pilot program, the problems associated with the presence of the E-scooters in Baltimore have guided the city on how to regulate the devices once the program expires. So far, terms of the eventual legislation have leaned towards adding key terms to E-scooter regulation, including the following.
- Require all riders be over the age of 16.
- All E-scooters would have a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour.
- E-scooters could only be ridden on roads with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or lower.
- Where the road has a speed limit over 30 miles per hour, E-scooters could be ridden on the sidewalk, but only at 6 miles per hour or lower.
There was also a provision in the legislation that called for a month in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for riding an E-scooter too fast or on the sidewalks of streets with a speed limit lower than 30 miles per hour. However, drafters amended the legislation, claiming that the criminal penalties had been intended to apply only to E-scooter companies who violated the rules. Riders would only face a $20 citation for a violation.
Gilman & Bedigian Represent Those Hurt by E-Scooters in Baltimore
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian represent those who have been hurt by E-scooters – whether they were riders or pedestrians or anyone else – in the city of Baltimore. Contact them online.