Purpose and Scope of this Site
During 2018, large numbers of electrically powered scooters appeared in cities across the United States. Dockless, they could be unlocked and rented using a smartphone app, ridden wherever the renter wished, and then left at a spot convenient to the end of the rider's journey. In some localities the governmental bodies overseeing and regulating the public spaces through which these vehicles were to be operated were not consulted. In most, they were caught unprepared, lacking permitting schemes or traffic regulations tailored to this new phenomenon. Under the motor vehicle codes of many states it was unclear whether they belonged on public roads, public sidewalks, bike lanes, or could be operated without a license and registration.
This site aims to collect examples of the regulatory responses that have followed in U.S. cities and states. Even before the pandemic disrupted everything, many responses were still avowedly temporary and labeled as pilot programs. As of mid-April 2020 it appears probable that numbers of scooter-share companies will not survive the public health crisis and that the regulatory dynamic following "opening up" is likely to be quite different. On the other hand, in urban areas where this form of micromobility had become well established prior to the appearance of COVID-19, e-scooters (both shared and individually owned) continue to furnish an important mode of transportation, one that some cities are working to sustain by adjusting licensing terms. And states, New York among them, continue to pass legislation regulating their use.
The principal purpose for gathering these examples in one spot is to assist state and local governments and their citizens to learn from one another. What has been tried? What appears to be working?
This country's division of legal authority between federal and state governments and between state governments and municipalities is distinctive. For that reason, the site will not systematically report on regulatory approaches employed elsewhere.
The site's entries are currently organized into the following categories:
- Scooter regulation
- Background state law on scooter operation, constraining and otherwise shaping local government regulation
- Approaches of individual local governments
- Developments in the scooter-rental business (including the effects of the pandemic) and developments in the features of these vehicles, (including some that may bear upon or facilitate their regulation)
- The impact of dockless scooters on urban transportation and safety
- Litigation over scooter rental and use
- Terms and conditions of use imposed by the major scooter companies
Peter W. Martin
Cornell Law School
Site Editor & Administrator