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The InTowner
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E-scooters and Bikes Evolve From Fad ~ continued from page 1

Diener noted that Cheh’s legislation would effectively prohibit riding on the sidewalk by requiring that operators set the e-scooters to go no faster than about six mph on the sidewalk.

This kind of scooter phalanx definitely ought not be permitted on sidewalks, yet at this time it is legal outside of the downtown core. photo–William G. Schulz—InTowner.

Rob Halligan, another Dupont resident and founder of the online Dupont Forum listserv, characterizes the growing tension between e-bike and e-scooter riders as “smart growth vs. older people. He says he fears that the animosity is close to starting a “war” and is becoming too divisive in general.

Former ANC 2B03 Commissioner Nick DelleDonne, founder of the Dupont East Civic Action Association, voiced distrust of DDOT’s Marootian, who he says “just wants to see the scooters and e-bikes pushed through.”

Marootian tells The InTowner that he hears citizens’ concerns about the new (as they are known in the trade) “mobility devices” –including from people who will probably never hop on and take a ride — and that the new list of approved operators is all about bringing order and accountability to the e-mobility revolution.

For example, Marootian says that the city is in the process of creating 100 dockless vehicle parking corrals by reclaiming street space near street corners. Also, he says the city is monitoring technology that would allow operators to set different vehicle speeds for sidewalks and for streets and bike lanes.

DDOT now has three employees for its dockless vehicles program. Those staffers, Marootian says, are responsible for testing equipment and “all the safety functionality” operators are expected to undertake, including advising riders on the use of helmets, and providing free helmets to riders on demand.

Members of the public can report misplaced vehicles and other safety violations by contacting the device providers. A list from DDOT, with phone numbers, is provided on the agency’s website.<> Photos documenting violations can be sent by text companies whose equipment is the subject of the complaint, and those companies are expected to take corrective action — for example, moving the bike or scooter within two hours.

But even that basic information can be very difficult to find on the DDOT website and it is not up-to-date. In that regard, the agency is failing the public on the e-vehicle revolution — and Marootian admits that this is the case. “We’re working on that. It’s not a very user-friendly website,” he says.

Indeed, the website has little specific information about e-scooters and bikes about the regulations for operating them. The InTowner did find a reference to something called “micromobility devices,” but it’s otherwise slim pickings. Marootian promises that the agency is working to improve, but the poor quality of the outdated website is not a new criticism for him or DDOT.

Councilmember Cheh says, “We have established bike culture in the District, but, because this technology is relatively new, we don’t have a safe electric scooter culture—resulting in many users neglecting to follow important safety rules.” She says her legislation, the Electric Mobility Device Amendment Act, “is a broad and comprehensive approach to establishing common sense electric scooter and electric bike rules that will help keep our streets and sidewalks safe while also enabling these services to continue to operate in the District.”

Cheh held hearings on the proposed legislation in October. Next steps for the bill, a staff member says, would be markup and a Transportation Committee vote in January 2020 and, if approved, the bill would move before the whole Council, probably in February 2020.

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