By Lauren Bennett
Electric scooters are becoming a reality in the city of Boston—the City Council last week voted to pass an amended draft of an ordinance that would allow the city to regulate businesses renting out small vehicles, such as electric scooters, on city streets and sidewalks.
City Councilor Michael Flaherty said that the Committee on Government Operations held a public hearing on Feb. 26, and a working session on March 15. At the working session, the committee discussed suggested changes to the ordinance, including reporting requirements of the advisory committee findings, a youth appointee, a dynamic cap, and an annual analysis of licenses, privacy, and public reporting requirements regarding utilization, Flaherty said.
“The committee also discussed BTD staff capacity to effectively implement this program, the creation of a pilot program and data on trips and imposing fines on users who violate terms of the ordinance,” Flaherty said, as well as “the collection of scooters and the responsibility of the companies as well as the insurance and all liabilities.”
Flaherty said that one of the more important topics of discussion was concerns about safety and equity, as well as the industry’’s impact on ADA accessibility, as there was testimony from the disability community at the hearing. He said that the ordinance is “intentionally broad” because the industry is constantly evolving and an advisory committee will help create the regulatory authority that is currently not fully spelled out in the ordinance.
Flaherty also provided a summary of the amendments made, including that a city councilor and a representative from the disabilities commission serve on the advisory committee, and a quarterly report will be submitted to the mayor and Council “on actions and recommendations undertaken by the advisory committee.” Flaherty added that many of the amendments suggested by the committee will be addressed through licensing and contracting with the businesses that will provide the vehicles.
“This is really exciting and this is an incredibly important first step,” said Councilor Matt O’Malley, who has been a champion of micromobility services throughout this process. He said that the council would like to learn from the triumphs and tribulations of other municipalities across the country that have already implemented these types of vehicles. “So we’re going to do it right, we’re going to do it the Boston way,” he said.
O’Malley said he supports micromobility because it helps people get where they need to go, it takes cars off the road, it helps lower greenhouse gas emissions, and “if done right…it can actually generate revenue for the city,” he said. “So I can’t wait to get to work and I can’t wait to see all of us on scooters in the not-too-distant future.”