A new trend of “dockless” rental bikes and scooters that can be parked anywhere — including on streets and sidewalks — has local cities considering new policies to cope with the technology. Atlanta is considering new regulations and Brookhaven has postponed its review of a pitch from one of the rental companies.

The scooters and bikes are rented for a fee from companies — the most prominent ones are called Bird and Lime — that allow them to be parked at any location rather than at a fixed rack like those used by Atlanta’s Relay Bike Share program.

James Curtis, a Shepherd Center patient who uses a wheelchair, took this photo of a “dockless” scooter blocking a Peachtree Road sidewalk in early July. (Special)

James Curtis, a patient at Buckhead’s Shepherd Center who uses a wheelchair, said one scooter left in the middle of the sidewalk outside the hospital blocked his way.

“The scooters block the sidewalks and are dangerous for all pedestrians,” he said. “They are hardly crucial.”

Curtis, one of a group of residents suing Atlanta over the condition of its sidewalks, said one scooter blocked a Peachtree Road sidewalk, and when he tried to move it while seated, it fell over. While trying to stand it upright again, he accidentally rolled over it, which could damage the wheelchair, he said.

“It seems to me there should only be certain places they can leave them,” he said. “If they don’t like it, they should think twice about using them.”

The Atlanta City Council held a work session July 13 to discuss a draft a legislation that would regulate where the vehicles could be parked and used.
Lime arrived in Atlanta in May and approached Brookhaven that same month. Brookhaven initially anticipated hearing a presentation from the company at a May meeting, but pushed it back after hearing Atlanta may be working on new regulations, city officials said.

Since Brookhaven neighbors Atlanta, transportation policy should be as similar as possible, said city spokesperson Burke Brennan in a written statement.

“Brookhaven is communicating with the city of Atlanta Office of Mobility Planning about their policy, and once it is adopted by Atlanta we will review, amend as needed, and present to the Brookhaven City Council for consideration,” Brennan said.

Jack Honderd, founder of the Brookhaven Bike Alliance, said at a June Brookhaven City Council meeting that there are few spaces for people to ride the scooters and noted there are no bike lanes around the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA station, or the city’s schools or shopping districts.

“We need dedicated safe spaces to ride,” Honderd said.

Denise Starling, the executive director of Livable Buckhead, which works to improve transportation options in Buckhead, said she is a fan of the vehicles providing “last-mile connectivity,” which is getting a transit rider to their destination from the station.

However, businesses in Buckhead have expressed concerns about riders leaving the scooters or bikes on private property, Starling said.

“That’s one of the pieces that we need more guidance on,” she said.

Livable Buckhead has encouraged property owners to establish the best places to leave the vehicles and educate tenants, Starling said.
The organization is also concerned about the safety of riders and pedestrians. Scooter users are frequently riding them on sidewalks, and aren’t required to wear a helmet, Starling said.

“We fully support having this other transportation option, but it’s really about having more tools to manage them,” she said.

Some Atlanta councilmembers have drafted an ordinance that would encourage wearing a helmet, require the vehicles to be parked upright and allow the city to cordon off areas for no parking.

Janice Sidifall, Atlanta’s mobility planning director, said at the work session the scooters are an enforcement challenge, but that the office is looking at ways other cities have chosen to regulate the dockless vehicles.

The ordinance would also restrict the amount of vehicles that could be parked in one area of the city, in part to make sure they aren’t all concentrated in affluent areas. For example, maps on the Bird mobile app show all the scooters are located above I-20, with many in Buckhead along Peachtree and Roswell roads.

Cameron Kilberg, the senior manager of government affairs at Bird, said at the work session that the company’s app encourages appropriate parking and requires a photo showing how the scooter is parked.

Bird believes dockless scooters are “ideal,” especially in urban and congested areas, she said.

“There are ways to go about good parking,” she said.

The council said after its work session that it would continue refining the ordinance after its recess, which ends July 27. The next council meeting is Aug. 6.

–Evelyn Andrews and Dyana Bagby