Dockless Scooters, Flitting Through Nashville, Prompt Regulatory Push | Nashville Public Radio

Dockless Scooters, Flitting Through Nashville, Prompt Regulatory Push

May 30, 2018

The Metro Council has made its move to create regulations to govern the shared, dockless electric scooters that have been zipping around Nashville in recent weeks.

Officials say they’re open to modifying the first draft of the rules but say something has to be done.

The company called Bird prompted the action when its scooters, which are activated with an app, showed up one day, before Metro could put regulations in place.

“They came to town apologizing instead of asking for permission,” said Councilman Jeremy Elrod.

He likened Bird’s arrival to disruptive companies like Lyft and Airbnb. He said the tech-enabled concepts can be innovative, but they test the city’s regulations — and its ability to respond quickly with adjustments or entirely new ordinances.

For the scooters, he said they could eventually lessen car traffic in some areas.

“We still need to strike that balance of: How do we protect rider safety — driver safety? But also make sure these vehicles aren’t clogging up our sidewalks or on private property,” he said.

Elrod’s legislation would require companies to get a permit, have insurance and pay fees. There would be rules about parking, limits on the number of scooters deployed (allowing for increases over time) and regular reports due to the city regarding usage.

The bill he filed this week leans heavily on work by several Metro departments, which he said have been mulling regulations since January. He said it’s time to move the ordinance into public view and work toward passage.

“With Bird coming here in the past several weeks, that’s accelerated that conversation,” Elrod said.

Other dockless providers have also reached out Metro, and Elrod expects comments on the ordinance from the companies, as well as residents and workers in the areas where they are most common.

As the ordinance moves through the council, Metro’s Law Department has escalated its confrontation with Bird. The city initially ordered a cease-and-desist letter to Bird and is now asking a judge to order the removal of the scooters, arguing that the company has ignored the initial letter. A hearing is scheduled for June 13.

A Bird spokesman told The Tennessean that the service is working with council members on the regulatory framework.