Don't be surprised if the electric scooters in D.C. look a little different next month.
A new law requiring scooter renters to lock scooters to a rack or pole and verify that they’ve done so with an in-app picture goes into effect on Oct. 1. Scooter rental companies will monitor the pictures in order to enforce the new rule.
The locks are attached directly to scooters, and riders can unlock them using the service’s app. A Bird spokesperson told News4 in an email that the company has been implementing the locks over the past several months and is analyzing rider data to identify where additional parking infrastructure is most needed.
“Bird is honored to partner with DDOT on this next chapter of the pilot program. Our team is hard at work equipping our vehicles with Bluetooth locks and educating riders as well as the community on how to use the new technology,” they said.
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The spokesperson added that Bird is providing instructions to riders on how to properly use the locks and where to park the scooters using a variety of methods, including in-app messages, emails and social media.
Lime Director of Government Relations Robert Gardner told News4 in a statement that the company is preparing to comply with the new law and hopes that the District will expand parking locations.
“Lock-to works when the infrastructure to support it is there, and we look forward to working with the District to continue building safe streets and micromobility parking infrastructure,” Gardner said.
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If riders don’t follow the new locking and parking rules, Lime will offer a warning before removing the offending individual from its platform after a second violation, Gardner said.
Both Bird and Lime initially opposed the lock requirement, citing the cost of retrofitting their vehicles. Gardner said that adding the lock systems has created several challenges in addition to cost, like installation labor and enforcing rider compliance.
Other scooter companies operating in the District including Lyft, Spin and Helbiz, did not respond to requests for comment.
The law requiring locks on scooters was approved by the D.C. Council last October, providing roughly one year for companies to retrofit their scooters and for the city to install additional racks across the city.
Other aspects of the new law include a $150 fine for riding a scooter under the influence of drugs or alcohol and a maximum of 20,000 electric scooters and bikes allowed in the city by Oct. 1, 2023. The District currently houses approximately 7,000 scooters, according to The Washington Post.