Nashville officials are saying that emergency rules put in place for electric scooters have largely been successful, and they’re moving with less urgency to take more of the dockless devices off the streets.
The number of complaints has fallen since this summer. That’s when companies were told to reduce their scooter fleets and do more to control how they’re parked.
The Metro Council was goaded into action after a rider died and they heard widespread grousing about scooters being parked and ridden on sidewalks. Many wanted to pull scooters off the street completely and start over with strict regulations.
Since then, the scooter companies themselves have made some voluntary cuts in fleet size. And officials say some less draconian rules put in place on a temporary basis over the summer seem to be working. Those rules include setting up no-ride and slow-ride zones in areas with heavy foot traffic, banning scooters late at night, and requiring operators to respond faster to complaints.
So, the Metro Council is pushing back permanent rules for about six more months. But after that, change is coming. Metro still intends to require the companies to be evaluated — although it’s moving away from capping the number of operators at three.
Councilman Freddie O’Connell, who was among the most alarmed leaders when scooters first flooded his downtown area, says the new approach could help make scooters into a viable transportation option.
“It’s a different model. It’s not, ‘Hey, we’ll open the doors to all comers and then we’ll sternly wag our fingers at you if you it turns out you’re a crappy operator.’ This is: ‘No crappy operators need apply.’ ”
There are still specifics to be hammered out. The proposal awaiting council consideration suggests many ways to measure companies, including:
- ability to address safety;
- responsiveness to complaints;
- willingness to attend city meetings, and;
- provision of ridership data.
O’Connell says he’d also like more consideration around protecting privacy of riders — he balks at the suggestion that data be provided to the city in “real time.” And he wonders if Metro could find a way to collect revenue from scooter companies based on the number of rides, instead of a simple permitting fee.
Nashville has been on regulatory odyssey since scooters abruptly arrived in May 2018.
Metro initially confiscated Bird scooters, then rushed to create regulations and a permitting process. The city later revised those rules, gained national attention while mulling an outright ban, and then settled on stricter temporary rules. Those remain in place as Nashville moves toward a new arrangement next year.
Regulations and enforcement largely fall to the Transportation and Licensing Commission, led by Billy Fields. He has said often that the city is on a learning curve.
“It is the most challenging thing I do today: Enforcing scooter regulations,” Fields told WPLN.
He said the companies have been clearly told that they’ll need to be cooperative partners once the next round of applications takes place.
“We’re going to be expecting a lot in terms of working with us,” Fields said.