Electric scooters are not legal in Philadelphia just yet, but legislative changes are about to take place, according to the State’s Representative. A pilot program for dockless e-bikes is about to be implemented, and it will provide support and insights for micro-mobility in general, so our recent post on this might be useful.
These vehicles are a great solution for those who want to get around crowded cities without wasting time stuck in traffic. Their compact and sleek design makes them ideal for achieving this and, even though they were originally produced as toys for kids, the innovative and upgraded designs we find today are definitely becoming increasingly popular among adults.
In fact, this is a booming industry expanding in cities around the world, with major companies now renting large scooter fleets to anyone who wants to enjoy this mode of transportation. However, not all cities and states can benefit from the advantages that scooters bring, Philadelphia being one of them.
If you live here and you want to make your commute easier, unfortunately, you may not be able to do that just yet. It’s only normal that once a certain sector starts developing, such as the electric scooters one, some issues can arise as well. In this case, they have been banned from certain cities and areas because they can become a hazard for pedestrians.
Also, given that the legal standing of these vehicles is rather unclear, authorities are still having a hard time figuring out how to best manage them and all the situations that might appear when their numbers increase in an already large city. Therefore, let’s take a look at what is keeping people from Philadelphia from using electric scooters.
A little bit of history
You may not believe this, but a law that is around 16 years old and that made Segways the only type of scooter allowed on public roads in Pennsylvania is what keeps electric scooters from being used in the city, at least from a legal point of view.
However, hopefully, things are going to change rather soon since well-known scooter renting companies Lime and Bird are already aiming toward changing this. According to the press, they already have some support to get this done, as the local State Representative wants to write a new definition for scooters and then apply the same laws that apply to bicycles.
Moreover, other local figures and authorities are supporting the introduction and usage of scooters around the city, and they say that the most important aspect is to have them available in every part of the city. Furthermore, companies should be involved in improving and maintaining the necessary infrastructure for these vehicles, according to the same persons.
Of course, companies renting electric scooters are willing and ready to deploy in Philadelphia, but since legislative changes take a while to pass, it’s difficult to determine just how long everything will take. On the other hand, the good news is that electric scooters are on their way toward this city, so inhabitants will eventually be able to benefit from them.
Other pilot programs
While things are still unclear as to what is going to happen with e-scooters in Philadelphia, the city is trying to bring innovation into the lives of the people living there by introducing other pilot programs such as the one featuring dockless bike-sharing. Regulations are already proposed, and the program could begin in the fall of 2021.
The city’s Office of Transportation is in charge of overseeing it, along with other offices and departments from the local administration. There is also the matter of sustainability around testing alternative modes of transportation, and every city should strive to find the appropriate solutions as quickly as possible.
As for Philadelphia and its pilot program, the city’s representatives plan to distribute only two licenses, according to reports, and each chosen business will be allowed to operate 1,200 bikes at most. There is also a designated area within the city for the program, but this has not been determined yet.
These licenses will be valid for up to one year, according to the program’s description, and the department may grant extensions. However, these as well will not be longer than one year.
Companies that are interested in being part of this program are going to pay an application fee of around $2,600, while the license itself will cost $76,000. If you think about it, this is around $63 for a bike, if the chosen companies use the maximum number of bikes they are allowed to.
A cautionary tale
This sort of initiative has been tried before, one example being in Camden. The city launched a six-month dockless bike-sharing program, but unfortunately, the company pulled out of the city just two months later.
For Philadelphia’s authorities and representatives, this story serves as a warning, since the city is looking for business partners with a proven track record that are there to stay, once they come to the city. Of course, any city should aim for such partnerships, since this is a matter of both comfort for the citizens and sustainability for the entire community.
It’s no secret that scooters and e-bikes bring a lot of benefits, besides urban mobility. On the other hand, they do have to be responsibly used. In the case of e-scooters, there are cities around the United States in which they have been banned because authorities are not sure how to manage their increasing number and the risk they can pose for pedestrians especially.
Officials behind this pilot program in Philadelphia also learned a couple of things from these cities, since dockless vehicles (bikes and scooters alike) can be strewn on every corner, thus getting into people’s way and becoming a hazard. While it’s true that we need to find solutions for easier urban mobility, there’s always some responsibility that comes with every benefit.
Unfortunately, sometimes people tend to forget that and when a certain sector, such as alternative modes of transportation, is booming, the results both good and bad might be a bit difficult to manage. In the case of dockless bikes and e-scooters, the recipe for success is made of three parts, namely users, companies, and the local administration.
Some of the solutions
If this dockless bikes program is successful, then it might pave the way for e-scooters as well. Luckily, it includes measures to prevent issues from appearing, one of these being that every bike has to have a cable or a lock so that users can secure it around the city. Also, there will be spots that allow bike securing so that they don’t get in the way of pedestrians.
The rules also state that bikes should be parked upright without hindering pedestrians or motorists. Moreover, no bike can remain unused and locked in the same spot for more than two days. This will be enforced through the two winning companies, as they will have to relocate bikes from prohibited places once they are notified of this by the city.
Since these bikes are not high-speed ones but they can still create significant damage or injuries, they will have to have insurance for automotive and general liability. For the city, the most important thing with this program is to make sure that both those who are using the service and those who are not comfortable on public roads.
Furthermore, the program might include other dockless vehicles and this is where e-scooters come into the picture. They may be illegal in the state for the moment, but if the legislation to change that is passed this fall, that means that companies could finally operate these vehicles as well.
That’s why the pilot program is very important since it will provide valuable insights into what the community needs and wants in terms of micro-mobility, so that any further measures are taken accordingly.