Over Labor Day weekend, another batch of electric scooters arrived in Baltimore. Lime scooters, the second company to arrive, joins Bird scooters on the street to offer dock-less ride options to any person over 18 with a license and a smartphone app. But this arrival of scooters has not been a smooth transition. The initial appearance of Bird scooters caught Baltimore, like many other cities around the country, unprepared.
The transition to electric scooters in the city comes on the heels of the failed bike-sharing program which shut down in early August. The bike-sharing program cost the city of Baltimore roughly $3.2 million, unlike the electric scooters which have no upfront cost to the city. In fact, both Bird and Lime scooters have entered contracts with the city to pay 15 thousand dollars each and an additional dollar a day for each of their scooters on the streets to operate in the city.
In addition to compensating the city for the right to offer their scooters to the public, Lime has also entered a contract that ensures the scooters will be placed in low income neighborhoods. This placement requirement is a city effort to provide affordable transportation to areas that are not easily serviced by other modes of public transportation. The goal is to provide a cheap and easy way for persons living in low income areas to travel to a job that would otherwise be impossible to reach.
While the contracts with the city may seem like a boon, especially to those in low income neighborhoods, a host of problems follows in its wake. At the time the bike-sharing program was discontinued there were 456 bikes in the Baltimore fleet. Of those 456, only 97 were actually operational, with the remaining majority of bikes under repair, vandalized, lost, or stolen. The same problem is already manifesting with the electric scooters, as a recent video being posted showing two teens dismantling the GPS system on a Bird scooter in order to steal it.
The other major problem that Baltimore must be quick to address is how to regulate the scooters in public areas. The convenience, and the struggle, with these scooters is that a rider can leave them any place they wish when they are done riding. With over 1000 scooters from each company arriving in the city, sidewalks and walkways will quickly become overcrowded. This has happened in many other cities, and has lead to some extreme cases where people have thrown scooters in dumpsters, in the ocean, and even at times lit them on fire out of frustration. If Baltimore is looking to capitalize on this inexpensive and efficient travel method, it is imperative that the city enact regulations aimed to curb these issues tied to electric scooters.
Ryan Zabel is a third-year day student at the University of Baltimore and will graduate in May of 2019. He serves as a staff editor for the University of Baltimore Law Forum and is a member of the Criminal Law Association. He previously interned with the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office, the Maryland State Prosecutor’s office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his dog and reading. He can be reached at email@example.com with any questions or comments.