Recent deaths of bicycle and electric scooter riders have prompted Washington, D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh to call for stronger safety regulations as part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative.
A 20-year-old man riding a Lime electric scooter was killed in a collision with an SUV on Sept. 21, and a 64-year-old man biking was killed in a hit-and-run on Sept. 24, according to The Washington Post. These incidents are cause for greater safety regulations, Cheh said to the Post, particularly as D.C. aims to reach zero bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities by 2024 with its Vision Zero initiative.
“I am a little concerned about safety issues, because I do see some [scooter] users who do appear to me to be a bit reckless, weaving in and out of cars and going up and down on sidewalks,” Cheh said in a Sept. 26 interview with The Washington Post.
Lime and Bird are the two primary scooter rental companies in D.C., and Lyft launched its own fleet of 250 dockless scooters in the District on Oct. 18. They function through a smartphone app that unlocks the scooter for a few dollars, depending on the amount of time using the scooter and which company is used. The scooters can be found in cities across the United States and even internationally, according to their respective websites.
Bird, which is valued at over $2 billion and has one million Americans users, according to CNN, affirmed its dedication to rider safety.
“Bird is committed to partnering with cities to ensure that the community, and its visitors, safely embrace our affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option,” a Bird spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We strive to improve and enhance the well-being of our riders and communities through concrete action.”
Lime similarly affirmed its commitment to rider safety.
“Lime advocates for city and state laws to require driver education for motorists around non-motorist transportation to greater emphasize safe driving around scooters and bikes in roadways,” a Lime spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
As of Sept. 24, when the bicyclist was killed, there were 27 traffic fatalities in D.C. this year, compared to 24 at the same time last year, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. This year’s total includes the bicycle rider, scooter rider and 14 pedestrians, according to The Washington Post. The District has constructed 80 miles of bike lanes since 2000, and about 5 percent of the city’s commuters bike, according to City Lab.
The District Department of Transportation oversees regulating bikes and e-scooters of companies like Bird and Lime, deeming the vehicles “dockless vehicles,” according to a DDOT news release. Through the Dockless Vehicles Program for bicycles and scooters, each company is allowed 400 vehicles.
The program began Sept. 2017, and has been extended until the end of 2018, with new changes arriving in 2019. These new changes are set to align with regulations from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, according to the DDOT news release.The new regulations involve forcing the companies to educate riders about parking the vehicles, as well as the implementation of new racks for storing the vehicles.
The death of a Lime rider in D.C. was the company’s second casualty, with the first occurring in Dallas earlier in September, according to TechCrunch. Numerous cities have begun to impose regulations on scooter companies, according to Vanity Fair.
Meanwhile, scooter companies are continuing to implement their own safety precautions.
“Bird recently formed the Global Safety Advisory Board, which will create, advise, and implement global programs, campaigns, and products to improve the safety of those riding Birds and other e-scooters,” the spokesperson for Bird said.