Scooter Renting Firms Are Being Given A Second Thought By US Cities

There is a rethinking among cities in the United States that at one point in time were against startups dealing in renting of electric scooters and as reports say, the authorities view is slowly turning to positive.

There were strict actions against companies like Bird and Lime in a number of cities throughout the US where the companies were scaled back and even forced to shut down because the city streets were getting filled with scooters and the sidewalks were filled up apparently over night. That happened earlier this year. While some city authorities levied fines, other impounded the scooters.

Despite that, stands of some cities are softening because they now apparently have become aware that scooters can be key in reducing traffic congestion, vehicle pollution, and supporting public transit. And for the startups, they are also willing to participate again if it gives the opportunity for them to expand their market.

One example of this is the city of Austin, Texas. In April, the city authorities found that its streets were filled with the sleek black scooters from Bird and the bright green scooters from Lime.

“The human response would be, shake off the gloves and let’s go. Let’s fight this. You just disrupted my city,” Jason JonMichael, assistant director of Austin’s smart mobility program, said in a television interview.

The city authorities instead discussed the issues. The city was planning for a dockless bikesharing program and it required them adding scooters to the program ultimately.  And hence the city authorities decided to sort out things with the companies to include scooters in the mix, JonMichael said.

In comparison to what some of the cities did – issue a cease and desist letter, Austin city authorities issued warning to the companies about confiscating the scooters that block the sidewalks. An ordinance that would create a governing process for scooter services, including speed restrictions and fees for operating, was worked out.

Currently there are 2,000 scooters all over the city. They are immensely popular and each is ridden almost 20 times daily which often results in their batteries going dead by noon, JonMichael said.

Bird hopes that its hometown of Santa Monica, California would also offer such a chance. The company was launched in September 2017 without proper business licenses. The company decided to pay the city $300,000 in fines in February to settle a criminal complaint.

“That was a real wake-up call. This is a fantastic business, and there’s a lot of competitors who want to do it,” Dave Estrada, the Chief Legal Officer at Bird said. “It really helped us take a good look at how we were doing operations and how we can best serve cities.”

Sidewalk riding is a lingering challenge for the industry because it irritates many pedestrians. Instruction are issued by the companies to customers to ride in bike lanes. But they complain that there are not many city roads with bike lanes and therefore customers sometimes ride on the sidewalks.

“We started understanding that we had one customer, the rider,” Estrada said. “Now we really understand a lot better that customers include cities and people who don’t ride Birds.”

(Adapted from Money.CNN.com)

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Categories: Economy & Finance, Regulations & Legal, Strategy, Sustainability, Uncategorized

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