Legislators get wheelie serious about motorized scooters

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

The state legislature may increase regulation on motor scooter sharing services in Washington cities.

Most scooter sharing services function the same way as bike share services: companies leave dockless scooters around cities, and customers use an app to rent the scooter for a period of time.

Bird, Razor, Lyft, and Lime all have been expanding their motor scooter services in cities across the country. Last year, the city of Spokane launched a pilot program for bike- and scooter-share services.

The regulatory issues raised in committee were similar to concerns with bike share services: people often get on the scooters without wearing a helmet, and vehicles are sometimes left in hazardous locations.

In San Antonio, Texas, for example, the city had to remove more than 110 scooters that were either blocking rights-of-way or ditched in potentially unsafe places, according to the San Antonio Current.

House Bill 1772, proposed by Representative Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, would set an age and speed limit for motorized scooters, require scooter companies to have minimum insurance coverage levels, and set a framework for regulations imposed by local jurisdictions. According to the bill’s fiscal note, its passage would have no budgetary impact.

Representatives from the transportation department in Rep. Macri’s home city of Seattle—along with representatives from Tacoma and the Association of Washington Cities—testified in opposition of the bill, calling on legislators to let each city develop a regulatory plan that works for them.

Joanie Deutsch, senior manager of government partnerships at Bird scooter company, supported the bill, pointing out scooter sharing’s benefits to cities.

“This new phenomenon which quickly expanded across the country last year…is a fantastic way for cities across Washington, at no cost to their taxpayers, to benefit from a clean, affordable, equitable new form of transportation,” Deutsch said.

Scooter share companies have advertised as being a solution for the “last mile” gap in public transportation. Rep. Macri pointed out in testimony that according to the EPA, if people walked or biked half of all car trips shorter than a mile in distance, it would cut two million metric tons in carbon dioxide and save about $900 million dollars a year.

The bill was voted out of the House Transportation Committee on Feb. 27 with a “do pass” recommendation.

“It’s time for a scooter revolution,” said Rep. Macri at the bill’s public hearing.

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