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E-Scooters: No Regulations and the 'Wild West"

They seemed to spring up from nowhere.  Bird Rides and Lime, the rent-an-E-Scooter companies are everywhere.  They offer an alternatives to public transportation without the congestion that comes from driving a car.  However, they also hit the streets and sidewalks without registration and regulations.  Pedestrians have complained of being swiped by riders.  The scooters are dropped anywhere.  


Now, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, at least 15 state legislatures and many more cities and towns are considering scooter bills.  For example, Atlanta is considering a $12,000 annual permit requirement for 500 devices and $50 per scooter after that.  Some cities and towns already make it illegal to operate the 15 mph devices on sidewalks, but the rights of e-scooter riders on the streets is unclear under existing laws.  Pennsylvania has already classified the e-scooters as motor vehicles that must be licensed and registered.  Scott Calvert, "States Push E-Scooter Bills," Wall Street Journal, Dec. 18, 2018, p. A3. 


Everything from the application of helmet laws to the number of accidents resulting from the e-scooters is on the legislative and regulatory table. Emergency room physicians have expressed their concerns about the increasing volume of accidents, many of them resulting in serious injuries to the riders and others, including pedestrians and those operating motor vehicles. There has been at least one fatality. The scooters are also subject to vandalism, which can result in them being unsafe to ride, with those renting them unaware of the damage or tampering. 



The e-scooters are an interesting case study in how laws are promulgated.  What has happened is that businesses have met a demand of consumers -- that of providing an alternatives means of transportation.  However, existing laws also gave the new product/service a loophole.  Governments do not anticipate the creativity of the free market, with the result being that a business grows, along with its public impact, without supervision, including licensing and use regulations.  Other products/services that have emerged to operate in a "Wild West" atmosphere have included the ride services (Uber and Lyft) and Airbnb and, for decades, computers and the Internet.  Lawmakers are grappling with regulation there as they try to define whether the products/services fit under existing laws or require new legislation and/or regulation. When existing regulation is applied, the new businesses challenge the application as being beyond the intent of the statute or ordinance (as is being done in Pennsylvania). With new legislation and regulation, lawmakers must balance the input of all parties, from pedestrians to the businesses running the new companies to those operating motor vehicles.  



Explain some of the concerns about the E-scooters.

Discuss the issues with placing the E-scooters under existing laws.