DOT unveils rules for firms offering dockless scooters and bikes—including equitable access

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Photo by Elvert Barnes, via Flickr

With a new city law in place allowing DOT to regulate the flood of dockless scooters and bikes hitting Baltimore’s streets, the agency today unveiled a host of proposed rules and regulations governing where, how and when the vehicles can be ridden and parked around town.

The proposed policies are now up for a 30-day public comment window. They govern everything from required fleet size (minimum 150, maximum 1,000 per vehicle type) to equitable distribution of scooters and bikes to speed limits to GPS tracking and data-sharing with the city.

Acting DOT Director Frank Murphy said in a statement that the rules “are a necessary step in our long-term plan to manage the future of a thriving dockless program in Baltimore,” and will help “ensure that all citizens across the city have easy access to equitable transportation.”

The city is awarding four one-year permits to firms that apply. Bird, Lime, Spin and JUMP have each been operating in the city on pilot agreements, with the latter two joining in February thanks to an extension of DOT’s initial pilot program. During the first six months of that program, providers logged more than 191,000 rentable scooter and bicycle users, who covered 828,761 miles over 723,252 total rides.

Some highlights from DOT’s newly proposed rules and regulations:

  • Each vendor must deploy no less than 5 percent and no more than 25 percent of its fleet across each of nine city-set planning districts daily
  • Companies must leave at least three vehicles (or four, if offering both scooters and bikes) parked at 20 predetermined Equity Zones by 8 a.m. daily
  • A tech-y requirement that’s becoming more commonplace: Each firm must use “geo-fencing” to notify users when they’re in reduced-speed (8 mph) zones—really just areas around the waterfront extending to Canton. There are also no-ride zones in and around M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, including the parking lots
  • A citywide 15 mph speed limit
  • Vehicles must be removed or made unavailable for rental between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., and removed during severe weather or emergency events (with 24 hours notice from DOT)
  • A scooter or bike left untouched for five days must be relocated to another block
  • Companies must offer cash-based options to users, as well as low-income customer pricing plans, and only use variable pricing “to increase equity and provide access for underserved and low income populations”
  • Each vendor must submit a monthly spreadsheet to the city with data on safety reports, theft, vandalism, repairs, illegal parking, the number of active users and more
  • The city can impound vehicles from non-compliant vendors and bring them to its towing lot on Pulaski Highway

Click here to browse the full list.

Lime’s Baltimore operations manager, Stephen Deline, said in a statement that the company is “thrilled to continue our partnership with BCDOT as they work to establish a first-rate environment for shared micromobility.

“These regulations lay out a sound framework for improving how Baltimore residents move around their city, while prioritizing equity and clean energy options.”

A Bird spokesperson said the firm is “pleased to see Baltimore more permanently integrate shared e-scooters into its transportation network. Bird looks forward to working closely with our city partners while this process progresses, as we are eager to continue serving the people of Baltimore who have come to rely on our innovative, environmentally friendly service.”

Spin and JUMP have not responded to requests for comment on the new rules.

The Baltimore City Council approved the law allowing DOT to set additional guidelines in April, also adopting a citywide schedule of fines and fees for users and dockless transit firms. Fortunately, lawmakers left out an infamous early provision threatening 30 days in jail for anyone caught riding a scooter too fast on the sidewalk.

Users actually face $20 fines for speeding or parking illegally under the law, signed by Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young last month.

Companies risk much steeper penalties of $1,000 for failing to meet data-sharing requirements, displaying advertisements—unless it’s to promote use by low-income or car-less residents—on vehicles, failing to meet equitable access requirements and more. There are $500 fines for neglecting to remove vehicles overnight or failing to move illegally parked scooters and bikes in a timely manner.

DOT wants to hear from you on its newly proposed regulations—with detailed feedback on the section, and your preferred corrective language if possible—at [email protected], or in writing. Letters can be addressed to BCDOT at 417 E. Fayette St., 5th Floor, Room 559, Baltimore, MD 21202.

This story has been updated.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
Ethan McLeod
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