The city of Atlanta is banning night rentals of scooters and electric bicycles in its latest scramble to deal with a string of motor vehicle crashes that have left three scooter riders dead.
The “citywide No Ride Zone,” as a city press release calls it, will be in effect daily from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. and begin on Aug. 9. All rentable scooters and electric bicycles that companies operate on city streets must be disabled during those hours under an order from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
The city last month halted issuing permits for any more scooters. The city says it is working on an “accelerated plan” for making dedicated scooter and bicycle facilities on public streets and a “revised selection process” for scooter and bike rental companies.
A spokesperson for Bird, one of the top scooter companies, said it will comply with Bottoms’ order. The company also said it already renders its scooters inoperable from midnight to 5 a.m. due to safety data showing that riding in those hours is “many times more dangerous due to impaired road users, fatigue and poor visibility.”
Scooter companies also often have contractors collecting and recharging scooters in nighttime hours.
Nima Daivari, the Georgia community affairs manager for the scooter company Lime, in a written statement praised Bottoms’ “exemplary leadership” and said it will comply with the nighttime ban.
“This temporary pause on late-night riding is a reasonable and measured approach as the city continues to work on its scooter policies,” Daivari said. “Lime will comply with the mayor’s executive order and will continue to work closely with her administration to ensure a safe environment for all road users so Atlantans can continue to receive the benefits of a robust, low-cost, emission-free transportation system.”
The city press release said the latest decision was driven by the fact that the fatal scooter accidents in downtown and Midtown happened at night. A juvenile was injured in a scooter accident Aug. 5 on Buckhead’s Peachtree Road, an incident that also happened at night.
Bird and Lime began flooding Atlanta streets with their scooters last year. In January, the City Council approved a legalization and regulation policy for the scooters in a 13-1 vote.
The lone “no” vote was from Councilmember Howard Shook of Buckhead’s District 7, who said at the time that he believed scooters are fundamentally unsafe and legalizing them was “morally very uncomfortable to me knowing someone’s going to get hurt.”
In an interview Aug. 8, Shook said, “There are times I absolutely despise being right and this is chief among them.”
Shook said the city’s regulation of scooters gives riders an assumption that the vehicles are safe to use within those rules “and I’m not sure we can make that claim.” He said he’s concerned that elected officials have “complicity” in scooter uses and that he expects “some sort of lawsuit” over the vehicles eventually.
Shook previously predicted that the city will end up banning scooters. In the recent interview, he said he isn’t sure where city policy is headed now.
“They’re here. They’re not going away,” Shook said of the scooters and noting that a council majority voted to legalize them. “It’s going to take an awful lot and passage of time for people to, frankly, admit that they made a mistake,” he said.
Update: This story has been updated with comment from Lime.