A D.C. Council member scrapped her proposal to ban electric scooter-riding overnight but said she's still looking for ways to make the rental devices safer.
Council member Mary Cheh hosted a public hearing Monday to give people impacted by e-scooters a chance to voice their opinions.
"How are we going to deal with reckless driving and safety in general?" Cheh asked. "How are we going to get enforcement? How are we going to get education and has any jurisdiction come up with a model we ought to follow?"
Just last week, the News4 I-Team exposed how little data the District has about scooter use, including hundreds of unreported injuries. D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department has no way to track the number of crashes involving e-scooters.
At the I-Team's request, D.C. Fire and EMS located more than 400 calls since the scooter program started in 2018:
- 335 people were taken to the hospital with injuries
- 73 were trauma patients
- 22 had head injuries
- 16 were classified as potentially life-threatening
"We need better data collection overall so that we know what's happening out there and know how to respond," Cheh said. "I'd like to see an analysis of where accidents are taking place."
Cheh is considering whether e-scooter riding should be allowed on sidewalks or just in bike lanes, whether riders should have to have a driver's license or a helmet and how the city will enforce whatever rules eventually are chosen. She already proposed limiting sidewalk riders to 6 mph and raising the street speed limit to 15 mph.
"Enforcement is a big aspect in all of this, and maybe spot enforcement might be a way to educate and encourage people," Cheh said.
She did not specify how that enforcement would happen or which agency would be responsible for it.
Brooke Finland was the first member of the public on Monday's witness list. She emotionally told the committee how her 8-year-old son was hit by a scooter while on a sidewalk near his elementary school. The crash broke his nose and cut open his mouth.
"It was a terrifying and emotional experience for my son, our family and friends," Finland said. "If your child cannot play safely at his neighborhood park, where can he play?"
Several riders testified on behalf of the technology, saying it's a great way to get around the city. Representatives from the DC Bar and Restaurant Workers Alliance, whose members often utilize e-scooters to get home from work during late-night hours, were prepared to speak against the proposed late-night ban until Cheh announced she'd scrapped that idea.
But Ryan Aston, who frequently rides scooters at night, said he would welcome additional safety measures, including better lighting.
"I would like to see more standardized equipment for all of the companies," he said.
Representatives from five scooter companies offered statements and answered questions about their scooter programs. Each said they're willing to work with the District as new rules are enacted. Cheh is considering, for example, whether the companies might be responsible for enforcing the device speed in certain locations or the age of drivers approved for use.
“We think if you are going to set different speeds for the sidewalks versus the street, then that should be incumbent on the rider to slow down their speed while on the sidewalk," said Will Burns, a director of government partnerships for dockless scooter rental company Spin. "Right now, I can speak for Spin, we don’t have the technology to regulate the scooter speed on sidewalk versus the street.”
A representative from another scooter company, Skip, said it was working on sidewalk detection software to be piloted in the District early next year. The company also is developing ways to help curb scooter riders' bad behavior.
"On the vehicle, we know if somebody is stopping and starting suddenly, if they're fishtailing, if they're weaving in and out. All that data is collected," Skip’s D.C. general manager Rob McPherson said.
Cheh said she'll consider all of what she heard in the hearing and fine-tune her pending legislation before the whole council considers it.