New Guidance on Dockless Scooters and Bikes

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This is a guest post from Negheen Sanjar, Director of Legal Research at the International Municipal Lawyer’s Association (IMLA).

Across the country, local governments are increasingly engaging with micromobility devices, like dockless scooters and bikes. These dockless micromobility devices are similar to their docked counterparts with one exception – they can be parked anywhere. Users can unlock the devices using their smartphones and are typically available at $1 to start and an additional 15 cents per minute. These devices are increasing in popularity due to their low cost to operate and ease of use, and as such, are increasingly becoming an important element as a city’s last mile transportation provider.

While dockless micromobility offers cities the opportunity to decrease congestion and aid communities in meeting their greenhouse gas emissions goals, they also present a regulatory challenge because they often do not fit into existing regulations. For example, merely regulating “scooters” as opposed to dockless micromobility devices can hit hurdles, as many states provide a set definition for a “scooter”. There can often be unintended consequences of a limited scope, such as accidently regulating every kind of scooter, which can include toy scooters or scooters used for a disability.

Dockless micromobility presents new, unanticipated challenges. These challenges include issues like clutter on the sidewalks, which can block access for pedestrians but also access for the disabled. Cities are finding there are also safety issues for pedestrians who may be involved in accidents when these devices are used on sidewalks and for dockless micromobility users when they are on the public roads and get into accidents with cars. Wit safety issues comes the need for indemnity and insurance to protect against liability. Issues with ‘the rights of way’ include questions as to where the devices may be operated, ADA compliance, parking restrictions, locking requirements and enforcement of any rules or restrictions a local government enacts. These are among the issues that arise with the increase in dockless micromobility. Therefore, it is important for local governments to consider how they are going to regulate this new transportation technology.

Recently, the International Municipal Lawyer’s Association (IMLA) created a set of guidelines to aid local governments in the regulation of dockless micromobility. The Guidance for Regulation of Dockless Micromobility (“the Guidance”) provides risk management considerations and general guidance in this space. The Guidance is intended to address key issues and offer practical considerations for local governments to keep in mind while regulating in this space. The Guidance addresses issues such as:

  • Approaches to Regulation
  • Definitions and Terms
  • Use of Right-of-Way and Parking Restrictions
  • Permit or Licensing Requirements
  • Consumer Protection and Data Privacy
  • Data Sharing
  • Ancillary Programs
  • Insurance and Liability
  • Additional Contractual Considerations

Local governments should keep in mind that transportation technology has a tendency for rapid change. Guidance provided by IMLA is an example of a helpful tool in catching up and dealing with the regulatory challenges local governments may face when confronted with these changes.

If you would like a free copy of IMLA’s Guidance on this issue or would like to learn more, please contact Negheen Sanjar at nsanjar@imla.org.

Sanjar Headshot

About the Author: Negheen Sanjar is Director of Legal Research at IMLA and serves as a member of Municipal Lawyer’s editorial staff. She also develops programming for IMLA’s distance learning events and oversees IMLA’s annual Institute for Local Government Lawyers (ILGL), Construction Contract Drafting Initiative (CCDI), and the Disruptive Transportation Technologies and Telecom & Technology Working Groups.

Ms. Sanjar received her J.D. from The George Washington University Law School. As a law student, Ms. Sanjar served as a member of the Federal Communications Bar Journal. She is particularly interested in telecommunications law, data privacy, and emerging technologies. She is pending admission to the Washington, D.C. Bar.